Libya: Lessons From History

With all the celebration and praise going around because of the recent victory by Libyan rebels, we must ask ourselves if we can really ascertain what is in store for the state of Libya.

Vague undefined responses of ‘freedom’ and ‘liberation’ don’t exactly give assurance that the future of Libya will be a stable and unexploited country.

Like the movements in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, the Libyan uprising in its emergence lacked a clearly defined ideological platform and leadership. People were unified for their justified hate of the lavish, reckless, and murderous dictator.

Eventually they did establish a council and a few principles for a post-Gadaffi state. But neither of these can assure us that Libya’s future is particularly a bright one.

Several of the key leaders of this group are not just former cronies of Gaddafi, but were part of the very repressive state apparatus that murdered the family members of the very people they now look to rule over again. It is for this fact, that Abdul Fatah Younis was murdered by rebel soldies that were supposedly under his command.

So ask yourself can such revolution be a success when they are being lead by the goons that participated in countless murders of the grieving population, whether they are Younis in Libya or Mousavi in Iran?

If anything the rebel assassins got it right that a post-Gaddafi Libya should not be ruled by such a thug and had him promptly taken care of. Not only is it appalling that these ex-Gaddafi cronies will assume important positions in the new regime, but there is the possibility the butcher Gaddafi himself may be able to achieve asylum in another country, be it South Africa, Zimbabwe or wherever.

To think after all this bloodshed, where people rose up to avenge the mass murders by the state and where the state pushed countless soldiers and civilians to counter attack, that with the thousands of bodies still lying without proper burial, that the king brute himself can still possibly get away is ridiculous.

How many civil wars have we seen where everyone but the warlords suffer? In fact what kind of revolution would it be when ex-Gaddafi cronies are in the new government, Gadaffi sips wine in Johannesburg, and the divisions within the rebels and loyalist camps must try to reconcile over the horror show that just took place, without anymore massacres taking place.

This Libyan uprising did not and still does not have the organization and platform of the FLN in Algeria, which even in its own case had quite a bit of tension and conflict after independence was achieved. The rebels have won, but at the consequence of Libya becoming a militarized society.

With guns pushed into the county by the West, one can only hope that disagreements within the rebel camp will not resort to gun play as they had at moments.

The brute has been removed, the unifying objective met, now the real task begins. If the society is not quickly demilitarized it can spell problems.

Don’t be so forgetful of the madness that occurred after the fall of Siad Barre in Somalia, Saddam in Iraq or Najibullah in Afghanistan.

But its fair to say the west wants stability for Libya, just as it wants stability for all major oil producing countries. The issue is what kind of ‘stability’ does this mean. Has it historically meant unrepressive democracies? Actually no. Is the fact that most major oil producing countries, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, etc have all been ruled by dictators a coincidence?

If anything oil has been a curse for the sake of political freedom and it shouldn’t be assumed that BP and other companies with billions invested can afford any type of political conflict or opposition that would prevent their profit quotas from being reached. And at the moment there are lots of opportunists with obvious interests to exploit the recent political change. Mahmoud Jabril, another ex-Gaddafi goon, who will most certainly have a important role in the new government is a strong advocate of neoliberal policies.

When Sadat established his infitah program, he radically liberalized Egypt’s after an era of state directed capitalism, resulting in the dramatic widening of the gap in wealth.

Likewise, a similar rapid neoliberal policy in Libya, after an era of pseudo-socialism that was liberalizing gradually, can have huge ramifications. These would be very negative consequences, even if stability is achieved and thats a big if.

So while people celebrate the removal of the stubborn butcher, there are clearly questions that need to be addressed amid the festivities. Bodies still lay along the country and revolutions usually don’t have fairy tale endings. They get hijacked, overturned and abandoned.

Let’s hope the best for post-war Libya, but not be blind.

Mustafah Bakhtary has a master’s degree in History  from San Francisco State.