The King Is Dead, Long Live…Who?

Victory – for now.Ghaddafi is dead. Cue the triumphant orchestral music and revolutionaries dancing in the streets with AK-47’s blazing away at the sky. Any day now, I’m sure that Obama will pose for a photo opp under a “Mission Accomplished” banner. Unfortunately, it is far far too soon for such merriment. The battle may have been won, but the war will still rage on. This war isn’t just the one between the rebel forces and Ghaddafi’s remaining support. It’s the war over who will rule Libya in the future.

 

At long last, he is gone.

 Professor Dirk Vandewalle, one of the preeminent authorities on Libya, voiced my worries exactly in an interview with the Financial Times when he said: “[Libya]’s never truly been a unified country…It’s never truly had a national  identity. It’s really the end of what was a very dramatic period for Libya, an extraordinary and almost flamboyant experiment in management of the country coming to an end. Now Libya faces all these other challenges.” When we interviewed him last March, Professor Vandewalle warned us about the possibilities in a post-Ghaddafi Libya: “My hunch is that once Gaddafi fell, you would indeed see the political vacuum that you describe. What we will have is a really chaotic situation. Some of the tribes may rise up against each other. Some of the tribes may try to settle scores because some of them were privileged during the Gaddafi period.” Do I have hope for Libya? Yes, yes I do. I strongly hope that the Libyan people embrace democracy, one that both respects Islam and yet at the same time is not dominated by religious law because I doubt that the American people can countenance another lengthy and expensive intervention. Political rhetoric grows more isolationist with each passsing day as more and more Americans realize that our budget cannot support nation-building. 

 —J.P. Harrington