Libya: premature hopes for democracy

Libyans must unite around the best option for the future of their country and strive to restore links between Libya and the international community.
Jawad Hassan Zadeh
3 November 2011

Another tyrant regime is kicked out from the history of mankind; on 20 October 2011 Moammar Gaddafi, the self-declared king of the Arab kings, was killed by Libyans who lived under his repressive regime. Gaddafi ruled Libya for over four decades.

Gaddafi was not removed by western intervention, but by his own greed and yearning for power. France and the UK played an important role in liberating the Libyans. The aerial attacks on Gaddafi’s loyal militia broke them into pieces. These raids cost billions for European taxpayers. 

The result has proved a vindication of western humanitarian intervention. In countries where there are flagrant breaches of human rights, super powers can justify intervention even without the authorisation for war from the Security Council of the United Nations. This is justified for ‘humanitarian reasons.’ The US, however, not having any strategic interest in Libya, were unwilling to take up their responsibility to protect the Libyans from Gaddafi’s inhumane and brutal killing. The French Minister Hubert Vedrine complained as early as 1998 about the US having become a hyper power, and they wanted to avoid that accusation. But Libya’s was a genuine case of the grave breach of human rights, the Libyans were being killed and tortured, and the US decided to remain a bystander.  Initially, David Cameron, Nicola Sarkozy and Barrack Obama only showed their unity and solidarity by making speeches. 

But now that they have been liberated from this brutal dictator, what chance do the Libyans have to run their liberated country? 

The western view is that democracy must replace dictatorship. But this aspiration must arise from the Libyan people: it will not work if it is imposed by the west. Libyans may not choose to pursue a western-style liberal democratic system of governance. They must unite around the best option for the future of their country and strive to restore links between Libya and the international community. In the long term, the scars that Gaddafi inflicted on the west will heal and Libya will be able to join the league of democracies, when the Libyan people wish to do so.

Libyans must however avoid rifts between the NTC and their tribal groups. Any outbreak of aggression over who rules Libya would be a terrible setback for Libyan hopes of freedom and it would render western efforts to prove that Libyan freedom can be defended by humanitarian intervention empty and meaningless. 

The international community must assist Libya in their future nation building. If the west turns its back on Libya as it turned its back on Afghanistan in 1992 then anarchy and lawlessness will prevail. Libya will once again become a threat to the world, perhaps more so than when it was under the rule of Gaddafi. 

Proper and measured diplomacy will benefit all of the western nations. But ignoring Libya may give rise to terrorists who once again will threaten the safety of western countries. 

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