Friday, October 14, 2011

Still Looks Pretty Good in Libya

Dan Serwer:
In a trip to Libya this month, just weeks after Muammar Qaddafi’s fall, I found peace coming fast to Tripoli, despite continued resistance in several Libyan towns. Ten days ago, families with children mobbed Martyrs’ square, where Qaddafi once held forth, to commemorate the hanging 80 years ago of Libya’s hero of resistance against the Italians, Omar Mukhtar. Elementary schools opened last week. The university will open next month. Water and electricity are flowing. Uniformed police are on the street. Trash collection is haphazard but functioning.

Why this rapid recovery in a country marked by four decades of dictatorship? Why does Libya seem on track while Egypt seems to have gone off the rails?

Libya has at least three important advantages: good leadership and clear goals at the national and local levels, careful planning and adequate resources.

I was interested in this statement about the importance of senior revolutionary leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil:

Libyans believe Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who leads the National Transitional Council (NTC), is uncorrupted and uninterested in continuing in power. He has pledged not to seek future office. He has visited the liberated cities to celebrate the single goal of freeing Libya from the Qaddafi regime. . . .
I think the personal decisions made by revolutionary actors have a huge impact on what happens afterward, and that this is the main thing making such situations unpredictable. The best scenario for Libya is that Jalil in fact steps aside and is much praised for this, setting a precedent that other Libyan leaders will follow. But if he tries to hold on to power, or if some other leader tries to grab it, things could get ugly very quickly. The modesty of George Washington's ambition was one of the crucial things in American history.

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