Geopolitics

Libya After Gaddafi: End Of A 40-Year Saga, Start Of A Shaky Future

Analysis: A violent military demise was fitting for Gaddafi who ruled that way for four decades. But the war to oust him has decimated the nation, and divisions among Gaddafi opponents create uncertainty both for Libya's new leaders and Western p

Can Libya move on from its bloody past? (Abode of Chaos)
Can Libya move on from its bloody past? (Abode of Chaos)

Politically, Muammar Gaddafi had been dead for a long time. He had virtually no friends left in Liyba, or among world leaders. Even at the height of his powers, he was an embarrassment to other Arab nations. His followers in Libya, whether sincere or opportunistic, distanced themselves from him as it became clear over the past few months that, thanks to military support from NATO, the rebels were sure to topple him.

But until the end, fantasy played a bigger role for Gaddafi than reality. He hadn't been seen in public since National Transitional Council (NTC) fighters and tribal warriors from the western part of the country captured Libya's capital, Tripoli, on August 23. Despite that, he continued to broadcast messages from the underground that forces loyal to him – who, towards the end, were centered mostly in his hometown of Sirte – would soon be vanquishing the traitors.

The only thing he got right was the end of the Gaddafi legend that he spent a lifetime weaving. He would not capitulate; he would not emigrate; he would fight to his dying breath. He said it several times. His death – whether by a rebel bullet or from a NATO helicopter– is a much better end for everyone than his imprisonment.

The rebels must also be relieved. What would they have done with the fallen leader? Vindictive justice would not have been to the taste of the allies. A fair trial in Libya would have been virtually impossible, not just because there were too many bodies in too many closets, but because the chumminess Gaddafi exploited for so long with Western governments could not have been overlooked. There is a kind of historical justice in the fact that this former military officer, who ruled by military firepower for 42 years, should die by it too.

And now, following the fall of Sirte, the hour of truth has sounded for the transitional regime. The victory doesn't solve the problems -- they're just beginning.

Failure in so many ways

The NTC had already set a framework within which it would immediately move to create a government after the fighting stopped and Gaddafi was out of the way. It won't be easy. Too many different parties -- traditionalists and liberals, democrats and Islamists, deal makers and tribal leaders -- want a piece of the power, and of Libya's wealth. Success is very far from certain. And a lot is at stake for the country's Western supporters as well.

Gaddafi's negative legacy does give his successors a bit of a head start, however. The revolutionary leader failed at every single thing he touched in his political life. He tried Arab unity. He tried supporting anti-imperialist movements around the world. He turned to Black Africa. He armed his country to the hilt, commissioned ruinously expensive projects geared to shore up his own prestige. Bizarrely, he even tried forging his own political paths – and ingratiating himself with the West.

It all cost a great deal of money, but brought only a very mediocre standard of living to Libyans. Freedom, and developing civil society, were left by the wayside. So expectations are that much higher now. The Libyan people want to be able to enjoy the fruits of their oil riches.

But this Gaddafi "bonus' will go only so far for the new regime. After eight months of fighting, a large part of Libya's infrastructure has been destroyed. It's going to take years, not months, before the oil wells are up and running again the way they were before the war. The huge numbers of foreign experts and workers who fled because of the war, but who are necessary for a productive economy, are going to have to be successfully wooed back.

This all means that soon enough many Libyans will begin comparing now and then. And since everything can't be made better quickly, nostalgia will hit – first just as a mumble, but growing to publicly voiced criticism. After all, not every last one of Gaddafi's followers – and clients – will have disappeared in the quicksand of the dictator's overthrow.

The victorious rebels have often behaved like rank amateurs, both with their weapons – and with the truth. They did a lot of posturing, and shooting into the air. They learned about how to wage war only gradually, and they would have lost if they hadn't been supported by outside help. The rebels announced victories where they didn't exist, or sometimes before they had actually been secured.

Finally: the bill in terms of the human costs of the war still has to be tallied up. In a civil war, neither side abides by the Hague Conventions. Ally air cover was supposed to avoid a massacre and protect the population. But the so-called collateral damage was nevertheless considerable. This too has to be assessed. Friday is the first morning without Gaddafi in 40 years, and it's time now to take inventory in Libya.

Read the original article in German

photo - Abode of Chaos

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