While the Libyan rebels have rightfully celebrated the ousting of Muammar
Gaddafi after a 42-year reign, turning him from all-powerful dictator to
cowering fugitive, the real challenges for a new Libya are just
The road to writing a new constitution, forging new political
parties, rebuilding a battered infrastructure, repairing a broken economy and
fostering civil society will be long, difficult and punctuated by
Having starved his people of any semblance of participatory
governance, Libyans must begin to pick up the pieces Gaddafi left behind in
order to build the foundation of a free, secure and stable
Restoring the rule of law and order throughout the country must
be the first priority. As long as Gaddafi loyalists maintain pockets of
resistance – and Gaddafi himself remains a fugitive – Libya’s transition cannot
begin in earnest. Gaddafi must be captured, and full control of the country must
be won before security and basic public services such as electricity and clean
running water can be fully and reliably restored. These must be steps 1 and 2
for the nascent transitional government.
Collecting weapons will be a key
task in this effort, including the arsenals looted by rebels from Gaddafi’s
Reinstating police forces and ensuring that they are
fully paid and functioning properly to maintain internal security is a sine qua
non for achieving any additional progress.
Many Libyans have suffered
under the ruthlessness of Gaddafi’s internal security forces. Revenge and
retribution will be only a natural course of action for many Libyans to settle
old grievances. The transitional government should learn from the mistakes made
in Iraq and immediately begin a campaign of reconciliation by welcoming the
integration of police and soldiers, who were loyal to Gaddafi, rather than
disbanding them and fueling further violent retribution that would derail the
effort to establish genuine security.
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HEALING RATHER than exacerbating
the historic east/west divide in the country must begin now. Consolidating
factions to form a government that “affirms the Islamic identity of the Libyan
People, its commitment to the moderate Islamic values, its full rejection [of]
the extremist ideas and its commitment to combating them in all circumstances,”
as stated by the National Transitional Council (NTC) in a March 30 statement,
would be a critical step toward a stable and prosperous Libya.
thriving economy is to be built and the hordes of foreign expatriates are to
return to Libya, establishing security throughout the country will be crucial,
and potentially trying. As security comes into place, the NTC, the legal
authority in Libya recognized by scores of countries and the Arab League, must
work to bring the nation’s oil production back online in order to infuse the
country with much-needed capital. Industry analysts speculate that it could take
as long as two years to bring production to the level it reached during
Gaddafi’s reign, which amounted to 1.6 million barrels a day. In fact, as the
head of the Libyan Stabilization Team in the NTC, Ahmed Jehani, recently told
the BBC, the “utter neglect” of the oil industry and national infrastructure
under Gaddafi could take as much as a decade to rehabilitate.
country at only 60,000 barrels a day today, the unrest has left the NTC with a
considerable task in overhauling the state’s handling of oil contracts to ensure
both transparency and equitable distribution of oil wealth. Finally, since oil
production accounts for as much as 95 percent of the country’s export earnings,
and resumption of full oil production will take time, the gradual unfreezing of
Gaddafi’s assets – estimated at over $100 billion – is critical to meeting the
government’s obligation to remain financially solvent and retain the people’s
Genuine economic development will be central for a country
that experienced over 30% unemployment prior to the outbreak of the uprising.
Yet there are opportunities for growth should the NTC prove successful in
maintaining the kind of competent governance that can generate confidence for
companies and investors. Libya could capitalize on its coastal location and
proximity to Europe by investing in robust tourism, industry and manufacturing.
In addition, the building of educational institutions to provide young Libyans
with the opportunity to acquire the necessary modern skills will open the door
to greater foreign investments, and with that an expanded job
Restoring internal security, reconciling between the old and the
new guards, and making major efforts to rebuild the economy will lay the strong
foundation needed to move toward significant democratic reforms. The transition
to a new central and democratic government will be long and arduous. Gaddafi
left Libya with nothing: no political parties, no civil society, no
non-governmental organizations and no parliament.
transformation should begin by developing a new Libyan National Assembly
representing all corners of the country. Although much has been done to prepare
for a new constitution, the formal committee that will be officially tasked with
writing it should be selected from and empowered by the Libyan National
Assembly. A successful constitutional framework is one that will reflect the
needs of the people and allow tribal leaders to have a say as long as human
rights remain constitutionally enshrined and fully enforced.
general elections must be postponed at least two years. Indeed, elections in the
near term, as the US and EU countries are prone to push for, would be a
catastrophic mistake for Libya. In Tunisia and Egypt, observers have witnessed
the growing pains of the nascent democratic movements in nations where dictators
were ousted, but the civil society infrastructures in those countries are far
superior to the shambles that Gaddafi left behind.
Political parties must
be given time and resources to organize, develop political platforms and
familiarize the public with their stands on various issues affecting the
country’s future security and economic developments. Opting for elections too
soon would give too much credence and undue power to isolated tribal factions
and Islamists, especially the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which is the
only likely group to be able to garner loyalty in the immature Libyan political
It remains to be seen whether in a new Libya, the remnants of
the LIFG will adhere to their November 2009 pledge to renounce jihadist violence
against “women, children, elderly people, priests, messengers, traders and the
The West was right to utilize NATO to assist the rebels in
overthrowing the lunatic who ruled Libya for 42 years. The strategy was
successful chiefly because while the West aided the rebels’ fight, the victory
was led, and ultimately achieved, by the Libyans themselves. The construction of
a new Libya must be achieved in the same manner. While the international
community has a critical role to play in infusing the country with much-needed
investment and development, the success of the transition will ultimately hinge
on continued determination by the Libyan people.
Any development that
takes place in any of the Arab countries has a direct or indirect effect on
Israel. Over the years, for example, Israel enjoyed good relations with Morocco,
which were maintained quietly yet effectively. I believe that Israel has an
opportunity to reach out to the new Libyan government and offer help in the
medical field in particular; there is a dire need for doctors, nurses, and
medical supplies to meet the country’s humanitarian needs. In this context,
Israel could offer a field hospital, which could include professional Jewish and
Arab Israeli citizens.
The transitional government is not likely to
accept the Israeli offer, but a quiet gesture at this particular time of need
may still resonate favorably in the future.
Demonstrating progress by the
NTC and communicating the steps toward a strong and secure Libya while adhering
to human rights from day one will be critical to engendering confidence among
all Libyans. While permanent change may be slow to achieve, progressive change
will begin at once.
The writer is professor of international relations at
the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches international negotiation and
Middle Eastern studies.
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