With the fall of the mighty comes the dispersal of the baubles of power. And just as Gaddafi was clownish in his rule, we witness another Libyan comedy as his golf cart gets unceremoniously towed away by one group of rebels while another rebel claims the trophies of Gaddafi’s hat, gold chain and fly-whisk.
At The Arabist, Steve Negus lists a few points now in Libya’s favor:
- The combination of foreign airstrikes — which rebels realize saved them, albeit without foreign ground forces which would inevitably antagonize people — gives the West leverage without creating a backlash. Foreign interference is not a dirty word here: one katiba member I met in Ajdabiya said that the first thing he wanted to do after victory was buy a sheep, and bring it to Sarkozy to slaughter in Sarkozy’s honor. This means that proposals like bringing in the UN to help with the transitional process, as some Libyan politicians have proposed, is probably going to be broadly acceptable. Also, when NTC member Mahmoud Jibreel says that fighters should not loot or commit reprisals because the “eyes of the world are upon us”, his logic is actually appreciated by fighters on the ground.
- Libya has no ruling party like the Baath. In Iraq, you had to join the party to rise high in your career, and to some degree the entire middle class was tainted by association with the Baath. This meant that technocrats got turfed out of their jobs by religious Shia parties, and in some cases terrorized by radical Shia militias. In Libya, the NTC has been fairly successful in keeping professionals in their posts, and only a few fairly organizations — ie, Qaddafi’s “Revolutionary Committees” — are really tainted by their relationship to the regime.
- There seem to be few divisive differences over the identity of the country — Libya is tribally and ethnically diverse, but pretty homogenously Sunni and conservative. In order to whip up radical Islamist populism, it really helps to have some kind of Other — be they crony capitalists, nefarious secularists who want to sneakily impose atheism through supraconstitutional principles, Baathists, Shia or others who practice scandalous rituals, or other “heretics”, Tartar military dictators, etc. There aren’t any of these in Libya, yet. There also aren’t any liquor stores to smash. Maybe this will change if a militant Berber movement emerges, or if luxury hotels start going up in which an ex-NTC member has a silent partner.