Fledgling rebel government's behavior so far offers few clues to movement's true nature
TRIPOLI — The question has hovered over the Libyan uprising from the moment the first tank commander defected to join his cousins protesting in the streets of Benghazi: Is the battle for Libya the clash of a brutal dictator against a democratic opposition, or is it fundamentally a tribal civil war?
The answer could determine the course of both the Libyan uprising and the results of the Western intervention. In the West’s preferred chain of events, airstrikes enable the rebels to unite with the currently passive residents of the western region around Tripoli, under the banner of an essentially democratic revolution that topples Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
He, however, has predicted the opposite: that the revolt is a tribal war of eastern Libya against the west that ends in either his triumph or a prolonged period of chaos.
“It is a very important question that is terribly near impossible to answer,” said Paul Sullivan, a political scientist at Georgetown University who has studied Libya. “It could be a very big surprise when Qaddafi leaves and we find out who we are really dealing with.”
The behavior of the fledgling rebel government in Benghazi so far offers few clues to the rebels’ true nature. Their governing council is composed of secular-minded professionals — lawyers, academics, businesspeople — who talk about democracy, transparency, human rights and the rule of law. But their commitment to those principles is just now being tested as they confront the specter of potential Qaddafi spies in their midst, either with rough tribal justice or a more measured legal process.
Like the Qaddafi government, the operation around the rebel council is rife with family ties. And like the chiefs of the Libyan state news media, the rebels feel no loyalty to the truth in shaping their propaganda, claiming nonexistent battlefield victories, asserting they were still fighting in a key city days after it fell to Qaddafi forces, and making vastly inflated claims of his barbaric behavior.
Skeptics of the rebels’ commitment to democracy point to Libya’s short and brutal history. Until Colonel Qaddafi’s revolution in 1969, Libya could scarcely be considered a country, divided as it was under its former king into three separate provinces, each with myriad tribes of rural, semi-nomadic herders. Retaliatory tribal killings and violence were the main source of justice.
[Continued at link -- Via MSNBC]
Shouldn't we have been asking these questions before we committed air and naval support and fired about $100M worth of armaments? Isn't that why Congress is supposed to deliberate and debate and then issue a declaration of war?
One of Lawrence Auster's correspondents points out that the mainstream conservative view is now one of endless low-grade war for "democracy," with such factors as location, geography, resources or, I'd add, actual benefit to the American nation-state being secondary.
This strikes me as part of the further feminization of war (begun in the decidedly male Bush I and II administrations) towards empathic, open-ended (i.e., never won) goals such as humanitarian relief, nation-building, human rights, etc. Sure enough, Obama has his very own female troika advising him.
I'm reminded of Madeline Albright's strangely personalized campaign against Serbia--to make the world safe for Albanian Muslims. Is anybody asking who we're making Libya safe for? And if they'll be an improvement over an aging, increasingly withdrawn Qaddafi or his unpopular, incompetent sons? Or if any of this is even our business?