Libya’s Future: Much Less Certain than Death and Taxes

Moammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader desperate to maintain the little power he has left, was said to have arrived in Algeria in a convoy of Mercedes. He must have done so after finding the personal jet of Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe to not be luxurious enough for his flamboyant self. Or he’s in the Sahara desert with his adopted daughter who arose from the dead 25 years after her death. Or he’s floating around in space.

All of this confusion, chaos, and senseless chatter about Gaddafi’s whereabouts mimics much of Libya’s big picture: the future is constantly changing, subject to the ever blowing Saharan winds, and will most likely be far from a democratic dreamland.

Fareed Zakaria, a member of the foreign policy elite, has heralded the Libyan intervention (not a war, of course) as “a new era in U.S. foreign policy.” Most of his praise was directed at the multilateral effort of the UN and the legitimacy that nearby Arab countries provided. He ended his propaganda piece with a self addressed question and answer:

The question before Libya was: Could such interventions be successful while keeping costs under control – both human and financial. Today’s answer is: Yes.

This same short sighted nonsense was said about Iraq as well. Seared into every American’s head was President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech that declared the end of major combat operations. Years later, Iraq experienced civil war, and religious and sectarian strife. Money and blood flowed quicker than Kuwaiti crude. And as I write, the US is developing plans for keeping troops in Iraq well past the 2011 year end deadline.

The problem with  Zakaria and other like-minded thinkers is that they’re caught up in the moment. They tend to think that just because Gaddafi is in his last days as the “Brotherly Leader,” the work is done. But that’s not how the US and their fellow supreme rulers in the UN and NATO operate. They’ve got motives other than protecting the Libyan people, and it reeks of oil. Otherwise, what’s so different about Bahrainis and Yemenites?

Besides dithering over who gets what oil field and protecting them from sabotage, the US risks getting sucked into yet another Iraq-style quagmire. Analyst Scott Stewart from world renowned Stratfor is dead on when he writes:

As the experiences of recent years in Iraq and Afghanistan have vividly illustrated, it is far easier to depose a regime than it is to govern a country. It has also proved to be very difficult to build a stable government from the remnants of a long-established dictatorial regime. History is replete with examples of coalition fronts that united to overthrow an oppressive regime but then splintered and fell into internal fighting once the regime they fought against was toppled. In some cases, the power struggle resulted in a civil war more brutal than the one that brought down the regime. In other cases, this factional strife resulted in anarchy that lasted for years as the iron fist that kept ethnic and sectarian tensions in check was suddenly removed, allowing those issues to re-emerge.

As Libya enters this critical juncture and the National Transitional Council (NTC) transitions from breaking things to building things and running a country, there will be important fault lines to watch in order to envision what Libya will become.

One has to wonder if Zakaria and others took such realities into account while proclaiming “Mission Accomplished.” As divisions continue to deepen and fault lines begin to show, the prospect of an embattled Libya is almost a near certainty. Couple the grim prospect of civil war with America’s eagerness to fight the War on Terror –Islamic extremists, al-Qaeda, and other Islamic fundamentalists are said to make up the ranks of Libya’s ragtag rebels – and a protracted American involvement does not at all seem out of the picture.

While the media andestablishment would have you believe that the Libyan Transnational Council represents the interest of the Libyan people, this could not be farther from the truth. Besides not even being democratically elected and full of former Gaddafi supporters, the council will have tremendous difficulty in putting forth a coherent agenda, let alone making it a reality. Will Libya, in the spirit of the Arab Spring, move towards democracy and a freer society? Or will Islamists get their dream and turn Libya into the seedlings of the Caliphate? Or, like in Egypt, could only symbolic changes take place to appease the people? Other than ideological divisions, Libya will still have to cope with ethnic and tribal divisions. Stewart explains:

These [divisions] include ethnic differences in the form of Berbers in the Nafusa Mountains, Tuaregs in the southwestern desert region of Fezzan and Toubou in the Cyrenaican portion of the Sahara Desert. Among the Arabs who form the bulk of the Libyan population, there are also hundreds of different tribes and multiple dialects of spoken Arabic.

It must also be remembered that Libya is awash with weapons of all sorts: chemical weapons, small arms, military grade explosives, artillery, and worst of all man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADS. Many small arms are already in circulation and being used in battle, looted from Gaddafi’s arm depots. But more worrisome are the bigger weapons. These weapons run a high risk of getting on the black market or in terrorists’ hands, which could then be used as they were in Iraq to fight the Western powers and the puppet government. Many Islamists who had their throats stepped on by Gaddafi are now free to breathe, plan, attack, and seek revenge in the new, Gaddafi-almost-free Libya. The CIA is most likely on alert and, if not already, is eager to dive into Libya to keep waging the hopeless War on Terror.

Contrary to claims by the government and its Presstitutes who consistently lie, exaggerate, or are just plain wrong, the Libyan mission is far from over. The ever-elusive Gaddafi is still on the run. The governing Transnational Council must develop a working plan for a functioning government. Civil divisions must be dealt with, as will the likelihood of civil war even if Gaddafi is once and for all ousted. An upshot of terrorism is also likely and would be devastating to any hopes of establishing a free and peaceful society.

A turbulent future remains for Libya.

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