Libya continues to struggle in the aftermath of Ghaddafi’s death. While many have trumpeted the death of the “mad dog” as the end of the Libyan trouble and the beginning of a new free state, I, as ever, remain deeply pessimistic about the whole situation.
That being said, I do not wish to give off the tone of “I told you so” in the following, which would be as unwise as it was annoying. Both sides of the Libya debate have reeked of this sentiment over the last few weeks, depending upon the character of daily news or incidents. It’s been a while since I commented on the situation there, as I simply adopted a policy of “wait and see” for the most part before offering any further analysis. It is negative, for the most part, but this is what I’m reading.
The provisional government has little real control over its armed forces. From the way that Ghaddafi died to the almost casual violence that continues in the country, it is clear that the government has a major problem with stability, infighting and responsible policing.
The government doesn’t care about pro-Ghaddafi citizenry, to the extent that they would rather move them to new parts of Libya then get militias to back off from the unhousing. Forced deportation falls dangerously close to the realms of ethnic cleansing.
Not enough is going done to guard arms depots. This became a major problem in Iraq in the aftermath of OIF, where every other group with a grudge had easy access to guns. The result: Armed militias who started an insurgency that has never stopped.
The media attention that fuelled western obsession with Libya – at the expense of places like Syria – has disappeared to a large extent. That’s predictable of course, but still not excusable. Too many observers, who crowed over the rebel advance to Tripoli, have tuned off, much as they did with Egypt, where the military still holds critics of the regime in prison without trial.
And it had just about disappeared when the NTC took the moment of their “liberation” speech to casually mention they were legalizing polygamy. I’m sure that raised a few eyebrows among many (and it should be noted the specific reasons why this could be viewed negatively, which may not be what you think).
Ghaddafi’s death was horrific, and not in the long term interests of the country. The man is a martyr now for all those who were loyal to him. He never gets to account for his actions or crimes in a court of law, as Saddam did.
And of course, as always, the hypocrisy of the west, in intervening on one place and ignoring everywhere else, hasn’t changed. People should stop claiming success in Libya. It is so uncannily like the aftermath of OIF. People claim that NATO and the west have been “vindicated” because of the fall of Ghaddafi, much in the same way others, rightly ridiculed, claimed “Mission Accomplished” in the wake of Saddam’s tumble from power. It was unwise then. It is unwise now. So similar are the situations that I quipped, on Twitter, the question as to whether the Tripoli museum had been looted yet? Imagine my surprise when I was informed that not only was this the case, but so had the one in Benghazi as well.
Now, Libya has been through a lot in the last while, and is due to still go through a lot in the next while. Elections are not going to take place for a very long time. A lot can happen in eight months. The militias may not be willing to become a regular military, or to really surrender authority to a national government. The discrimination against pro-Ghaddafi demographics is, as it always is anywhere, a time-bomb to trouble down the line, while providing a potential “loyalist” insurgency with a ripe recruiting grounds. A young kid forced out of his home by armed men can easily become an armed youth shooting government forces a few years later.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. The government could exert some control over the militias, get them in line, deal decisively with those who disagree. They could try and implement some kind of reconciliation with those elements of the population who were loyal to Ghaddafi. They might be able to create a stable non-Iraqi style-legislature with free elections, one that is not too hardline Islamist in nature.
I have serious doubts. As I always did. I’m not writing the “free” Libya off.
Anymore then I wrote off Iraq in 2003 or Afghanistan in 2001.