Mahmoud Jibril, interim Prime Minister of the NTC. Photocredit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXvuMrAfjZk
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the fallen dictator of Libya, has died, after 42 years of tyranny. He had been hiding in the town of his birth, Sirte, and had been trying to escape as rebel fighters closed in. The quondam leader was apparently dragged through the streets of Sirte, beaten up and then shot by a mob. The death has caused widespread joy in Libya and the West. But what now for Libya? Commentators have greeted the news with euphoria, tempered with practicality and an awareness of the past — will Libya be a new Iraq?
No Gaddafi trial is not a big problem. Libya now won’t be able to put Gaddafi on trial, said The Times (£), a process which would have been “cathartic”, perhaps, and would most definitely have ended in “the noose.” But actually, it would have told us nothing we didn’t already know. The world knew about his links to terrorists, and the facade of his “people’s democracy”, a cloak for a tyranny maintained by “torture, intimidation and murder.” Always “more than a maverick”, his last “moderate” actions were also deceptive. The Libyan people’s revolt has been extremely brave, particularly as the outcome was not at all certain. So what will happen now? The loyalists must be stopped; everyone else must help, especially Europe — North Africa is our “immediate neighbour.” We chose to intervene rather than not, and have shown that intervention can be positive — it can “end in the liberty of a people who faced death and tyranny.”
Construction, not revenge. They sure did face tyranny, said the New York Times editorial, but the “gruesome” video that apparently shows the dicator being kicked and beaten is “deeply troubling.” Ross Douthat in the same paper said the death wasn’t the “ideal way to inaugurate an era of liberty.” Libya should avoid such acts of revenge, continued the editorial, and concentrate on constructing their new country. There’s a huge amount of work to do. Mahmoud Jibril, the current “interim prime minister”, should state clearly that Gaddafi’s lieutenants will be carted off to the Hague. (On The Daily Beast, Babak Dehghanpisheh added that Gaddafi’s clan should be rounded up — his sons are still “on the loose.”) An “army and police force”, continued the NY Times, led by civilians, should be created. Militias should be disbanded. Registering voters and candidates for elections must be transparent — and they should include Gaddafi loyalists and women to show that “all Libyans will be part of this new undertaking.”
There is closure, but there’ll be reverberations. On the contrary, said Max Hastings in The Daily Mail; Gaddafi’s death is “preferable to his survival in captivity.” If he’d been on trial, the Arab world wouldn’t have enjoyed the sight of a Muslim leader at the mercy of Western justice. At least this is “closure.” But Libya has “no democratic traditions”, and is torn apart by “tribal rivalries”, (and much of this “dysfunctionality,” said Simon Tisdall in The Guardian, is because Gaddafi “was as open to power-sharing as Caligula was to reasoned debate.”) There’s no “responsible media”, no “uncorrupt judiciary”, no civil service. How are they going to peacefully co-exist? We must ensure that something better comes after Gaddafi — but nobody has any idea “how the Arab Spring will play out.” In Egypt there’s been fresh unrest; Yemen is “boiling over”, in Syria there are atrocities daily; Lebanon is at the whim of Hamas and Hezbollah; Tunisia’s course is “deeply uncertain.” Fears about Islamists abound, and if the West continues to support Israel, Muslims will continue to treat it with suspicion. We can only judge the success of this intervention in a couple of years’ time.
Libya’s guns and gangs. True, said Peter Oborne in The Daily Telegraph. Regime changes have always started well — the trouble only starts afterwards. The different militias represent different regions and ideologies; street fights are already happening in Tripoli. Who’s going to get all Gaddafics money? Who’ll get the government contracts and the monopolies? Weapons are manifold, and cheap, and they’re being poured through Libya’s “porous and unpoliced borders”, adding to the “potent menace” of the region. More worrying is the existence of 20,000 anti-aircraft missiles; only 600 are accounted for. There’s also the motives of foreigners — the Chinese and the Qataris, in particular. “What will they ask for?”
National Transitional Council divided? There are two factions in the National Transitional Council (NTC), said Abdel Bari Atwan in The Guardian’s Comment is Free, liberals, and Islamists. Jibril is not popular; the NTC president, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, has got different troubles — he used to be Gaddafi’s minister of justice. The young people who “are the real dynamos” of the revolution seek “new faces” as leaders — but there are none.