Monday, August 22, 2011

Reasons to be optimistic about Libya's future.

Libya is free.

With the exception of a few pockets of resistance in Tripoli and some rogue military units elsewhere the Qaddafi regime has collapsed completely. 

Fursa sayiida, and Mabrouk to the people of Libya. It still hasn’t sunk in yet for me. The progress was frustratingly slow for the past two months but never a stalemate, despite what the skeptics said. Suddenly, over the past week the forces in the mountains started advancing by leaps and bounds, and more high profile defectors started slipping away. The actual conquest of Tripoli itself took less than 48 hours, and although Bab-AlAziza (Gaddafi’s super-villain compound) is not yet liberated, several of Gaddafi’s sons are in custody and G’s personal security forces laid down their arms yesterday (though there has been no specific mention the fate of his amazon bodyguard team). Misinformation and rumor surrounds the actual whereabouts of Brother Leader himself – some say dead, some say in custody, some say fled to Algeria or Chad.

None of that matters right now. The only important thing is that the Libyan people are now free.

So what comes next for Libya?

Prognostication is a dangerous business when one’s predictions are preserved and easily findable (my earlier overly optimistic comments about Gaddafi’s imminent departure are all still up on this blog). That being said, some outcomes are more likely than others.

As I’ve said before, Libya has certain advantages over many of the other Arab countries.

First of all, it has oil wealth. Not on the scale of countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, but certainly enough to ensure funds for infrastructure rebuilding without borrowing money and signing away its future to the IMF and the world bank. Not only that, but the Gaddafi bank accounts that were frozen at the beginning of the NATO intervention will be opened to the National Transition Council, providing them with instant capital for reconstruction.

Secondly, unlike Tunisia and Egypt, the collapse of the regime has been complete. Some of the more powerful tribal leaders may win big in an election scenario, but it’ll be pretty difficult for anyone with deep connections to the Libyan regime to retain much power unless they were among the first to leave . Libya will be taking their steps towards freedom without the entrenched power structures that Egypt and Tunisia are still struggling with. Guys like Mahmoud_Jibril, Abdul_Hafiz_Ghoga, and Mustafa_Abdul_Jalil were already on the outs with the regime when the uprising started, and if there’s one thing that the Libyan people are going to be wary of in the future it’s a strong central government. Don’t be surprised if the Libyan constitution places severe limits on the powers and authorities of their chief executive.

Third, Libya is reasonably situated for self-governance. Despite the general failure of the political system invented by Gaddafi and promulgated in his “Green Book”, an important aspect of the “Jamhariyya” is its heavy reliance on direct democracy for local governance. Although the system was severely hampered by the corruption and interference from nepotistic elites, the Libyan people are quite familiar with the democratic process, and 100% committed to self-governance.

Fourth, there is a strong sense of Libyan identity. This is not to say that Libya is homogeneous, and it is possible that some of the more traditional tribal elements will simply fade out of the state system (though the advantages of sharing in the state oil-wealth may serve as a counterbalance to this), but the shared tribulations of 41 years of Gaddafi, along with the sacrifice and unifying experience of the 2011 Libyan revolution has certainly created a powerful sense of Libyan unity.

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