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New Libya: Worse Than the Old Gaddafi One?

Posted on the 28 August 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
New Libya: Worse than the old Gaddafi one?

Anti-Gaddafi protesters gather outside the Libyan embassy in Cairo, Egypt, to celebrate the fall of Tripoli. Photo credit: Maggie Osama

Gaddafi remains at large in Libya but his authority is dead. The National Transitional Council (NTC) have set up shop in Tripoli and are promising to end shortages of medication, fuel and water that have threatened to create a humanitarian crisis. Gaddafi’s desperate attempt to sue for peace, and help form a transitional government, has indicated that even the erratic Desert Fox knows the game is finally up. British Foreign Secretary William Hague called Gaddafi’s offer to help form a transitional government “delusional,” and said the transfer of power was already underway. Hague’s position was echoed by the Arab League who implicit recognised the NTC after it called for Libyan assets to be unfrozen and asked for Libya’s seat at the organisation to be handed to the rebels.

As reports have circulated of mass slaughterhouse killings by the Gaddafi regime, and the sheer blingy luxury of his and his family member’s many Tripoli mansions has emerged, resurgent rebel militias are furiously tracking remaining loyalists in the western deserts. Observers expect Gaddafi to make one last desperate stand in his hometown of Sirte.

Gaddafi threatened to “cleanse” Libya of anti-government elements “street by street, house by house.” Now he’s the one being hunted down.

  • Sure, Gaddafi is bad but will the rebels be any better? Writing at The Daily Mail, Peter Hitchens expressed great concern that the West is “cheering on a football crowd with AK-47s, who could be worse than Gaddafi.” While Hitchens said that the Gaddafi regime is “indefensible,” he doubted the “incompetent” rebels are a much better bet for Libya: “I look at these wild characters in baseball caps and tracksuit bottoms blasting ammunition into the sky … and I am mainly thankful that they are a long way off. I suppose it is possible that this lot will miraculously create a law-governed democracy with freedom of speech and conscience. But I somehow shan’t be surprised if they don’t. Just because existing regimes are bad, it does not follow that their replacements will be any better. The world has known this since the French Revolution of 1789, when bliss and joy turned to mass murder and dictatorship in a matter of months.”

“Just because existing regimes are bad, it does not follow that their replacements will be any better,” reminded Peter Hitchens. 

  • Libya is haunted by ghosts but it can awake from the Gadaffi nightmare. Shashank Joshi, associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, and a key Libya commentator, said the new Libya is “haunted” by several ghosts: “the chaos of Baghdad 2003; the hints of tribal factionalism evident after the death of rebel commander Abdul Fattah Younes; and the ‘flickers of al Qaeda’ invoked by NATO’s military chief back in March.” Joshi said it is “impossible to say with certainty that Libya will not collapse” given it is a “fragile country with no government and many weapons,” but hit out at “lazy analogies” to previous catastrophes, like Iraq after 2003, which “do a disservice to the preparation undertaken by the TNC in concert with British and French advisers.” “Libya will take years before it develops the habits and practices of a democracy. The interim period will be replete with unsavoury compromises and sporadic setbacks. But dire warnings of marauding rebels soaking Tripoli’s streets with blood have simply not materialised, and are unlikely to do so,” concluded a reasonably optimistic Joshi.

Will tribalism and the ‘flickers’ of Al Qaeda burn down the New Libya? Shashank Joshi hopes not.

  • Libya is no Iraq. Reporting from Tripoli, Andrew Gilligan of The Daily Telegraph suggested that there is little reason to believe that Tripoli will descend into a Baghdadian melt-down: “For me at least, as a witness to the collapse of both the Iraqi and the Libyan dictatorships, the differences, for now, seem greater than the similarities.” Gilligan reminded that unlike Iraq, Libya’s was not a regime change imposed from the outside and enforced by an army of occupation. It was initiated by Libyans themselves, and has been fought on the ground largely by Libyans themselves. The writer also noted that Libya has none of the sectarian or religious divides that have plagued Iraq and, crucially, is not unsettled by its neighbours: “It has no Pakistan secretly supporting or condoning Islamist militias. It has no Iran and Saudi Arabia fomenting discontent. There are instead two relatively benign states, Tunisia and Egypt, themselves going through the throes of democratisation.”

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