It has been a long time since bitter enemies were able to imagine each other as truly human; as the servants of narrow or other interests rather than as pathologically homicidal “wolves,” unworthy of quarter. But this is what the people of post-Gadhafi Libya must find the strength to do. They must limit the execution of vengeance—however rewarding it seems now—and move directly to the very difficult yet much more rewarding task of building a functioning government capable of laying the foundation for the decades long process of recovery from Gadhafi’s abuses. Read more
Posts tagged ‘Libya’
Executive Director, Dubai Initiative, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
The death of Muammar Gadhafi, as well as that of his son and his closest advisor, in addition to the fall of Sirte, allows the Transitional National Council to declare Libya’s freedom. However, it does not guarantee a peaceful transition any more than Saddam’s capture did in Iraq. The tough work of nation building and the creation of an inclusive political system will now begin. And while analysts have been concerned about the divisions that have recently emerged within the TNC, those divisions are a sign that the TNC is a truly diverse institution, bringing together a wide coalition of ideologies and interests. That is as good a start for the establishment of a democratic system as we can hope for. Read more
The death of Muammar Qadhafi is the decisive event in the nine-month civil war in Libya. In the minds of most Libyans, the war could not end without his departure from the country or death on the battlefield.
As British Prime Minister Cameron reminded us today, it is important to remember Qadhafi’s many victims, including the hundreds of Americans and other nationals who died in the Lockerbie terrorist attack of December 1988. Qadhafi was a tyrant who ruled mercilessly for over forty years and left most of the people of his oil-rich country impoverished. His brutal, authoritarian rule extinguished all independent movements and denied the building over time of the civil society organizations that are the foundation of most countries and all democracies. Read more
With the death of Muammar Gadhafi today in Libya, the conventional wisdom has already taken form. First, that this was a success, albeit a delayed one, for the Obama Administration’s “leading from behind” strategy. This was always a NATO effort, with strong French accents, and one which we would support but not manage. The fact that Obama was in Brazil when the mission started had symbolic meaning: the U.S. did not own this.
Second, that while Gadhafi’s death is an important milestone for closure, the challenges for Libya will endure. It is a nation with almost no civil society to rely on, and rebels who are hardly unified. Read more
Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
In December 2003, Muammar Ghaddafi renounced his weapons of mass destruction program, and agreed to dismantle them in a verifiable manner. This proceeded relatively swiftly. Libya’s uranium enrichment program was taken apart, and sensitive materials and documentation ranging from nuclear weapons design information to gas ultracentrifuge components were confiscated.
Libya’s highly enriched uranium, which was used to fuel its Tajoura research reactor, took longer to remove. But after several stand-offs, the last consignment of spent fuel was flown out of Libya in December 2009. That was all good news. Read more
Following months of fighting to defeat Qaddafi, it looks like the rebels are poised for victory. In terms of civil war settlements, this is potentially very good news for two reasons.
First, one of the most important findings in civil war research in the past decade is that when civil wars are ended by rebel victories, as opposed to negotiated settlements, the peace that follows is much more likely to last. Second, and of almost equal importance, when non-Marxist rebels win, political liberalization is also more likely to follow than when a civil war ends any other way. That’s the good news. Read more
The Power & Policy Fellows’ Forum
By Chuck Freilich, Senior Fellow, International Security Program
The popular uprisings sweeping the Middle East are breathtaking and apparently far from over. After decades of paralysis and ossification, the entire Middle Eastern landscape is changing before our eyes.
With the rapidity of events elsewhere, attention has been diverted from Iran, in which all of the components of the revolutionary situation, which gave rise to the uprisings in the Arab world, exist as well, even more so. Read more
There is no question that Libya would be better off without Qaddafi. The more poignant question is whether his removal warrants more extensive use of American power and action – and whether the United States is willing to bear further responsibility for what comes after Qaddafi.
Just weeks into the intervention, the lack of clear goals is already muddying the waters and further complicating an already complex situation. Most Americans, and presumably nearly all Libyans, interpreted President Obama’s statement that it is time for Qaddafi to go not as an indication of the president’s personal preferences, but as a declaration of U.S. policy. President Obama is not the first U.S. president to call for a regime’s removal, but to be unwilling to commit extensive U.S. resources to the purpose. Nor is he the first U.S. president to hold a more ambitious goal toward a recalcitrant regime than the United Nations or U.S. allies. President Clinton made regime change an explicit American objective vis-à-vis Iraq in the 1990s, even while the international community was focused on disarmament. President Reagan, for a time, openly called for regime change in Libya in the 1980s, later softening this stance. Read more
Last week, President Obama made a compelling case for why he authorized force in Libya. In doing so, he sought to assure the American people that this intervention was prudent and bore no resemblance to the controversial and costly wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. He pre-empted such comparisons by explicitly stating, “to be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq” as a counterpoint for explaining why he would not seek to overthrown Qaddafi by force.
It may be both easy and convenient to dismiss the Iraq and Afghan experiences at this stage of U.S. intervention in Libya. But neither President Obama, nor the American people, would be wise to ignore the hard-won lessons that have emerged from these conflicts. In fact, while acknowledging the very different circumstances surrounding each intervention, America’s experience in Iraq and Afghanistan suggest more than a few cautionary notes and morsels of advice. Read more
Having wandered recently among the orange-red dunes of the Arabian desert, my mind is filled with analogies about shifting sands, blurred vision, and the stark clarity that can come when the winds settle down. The winds on this peninsula and in the nearby Sahara are still blowing, the new dunes still being formed, but we can say some things about the shape of the Arab world that will emerge.
Unless the United States and its Arab allies are unusually diligent, skilled, and lucky, the new configuration will be less supportive of US interests, at least in the short term. That is not a judgment about what we should have done or should do now, nor is it meant to be a justification for the regimes that are being swept from power. It is meant only to be an analytical conclusion. Read more