Gaddafi's legacy

Libya – failed state par excellence

Faraj Alasha asks whether, in the event of General Haftarʹs forces taking control of the Libyan capital Tripoli, its population will embrace and support him? Or will his forces be worn down by attacks inside the city, thus ushering in a new chapter of bloodletting?

Libya is a failed state. There is no single political system. There is no single authority. There is no single government. There is no single military force with a monopoly over the possession and lawful use of weapons. Thatʹs why it is such a spectacular failure.

It is really a proto-state. As history teaches us, wars create states, when one power asserts itself over its rivals, extends its control over the entire land and establishes a single authority of whatever form or system of government. It is up to the consciences of the governed and their willingness to forge their own destiny. Until that point, the ordinary citizens of Libya will remain hostage to the open struggle between the warring factions that are jostling for power and control over the countryʹs oil wealth, fuelled by the agendas of regional and international powers.

War is a terrible thing. It is often said that when war breaks out, hell opens its gates, as it is doing right now on Tripoliʹs outskirts. It is a long-drawn-out battle to control the centre of political decision-making and the oil revenues. It is being fought, on the one side, by the "Libyan Army" led by General Khalifa Haftar, a disciplined force with a clear chain of command, superior numbers and overwhelming firepower. It does not hide the fact that it is supported by regional powers such as Egypt and the UAE.

On the other side, the "Libyan Army" faces forces (backed by Qatar and Turkey) which were mobilised in haste in order to repel General Haftarʹs assault on the capital. They comprise assorted militias, mostly made up of civilians and headed by dozens of local warlords who hail from Tripoli, Misrata and the surrounding areas.

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They all have a common interest in preventing General Haftar from taking control of Tripoli and, most particularly, from taking control of the Central Bank and with it, the oil revenues. Meanwhile, Tripoliʹs two million inhabitants are suffering the consequences of being caught in the middle of a bloody and destructive conflict to control the state and all its worth.

What is happening in Libya now is the result of economic, social and cultural policy, not to mention the ins and outs of four decades of Gaddafiʹs rule and personal whims. His rule was akin to that of the Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah a millennium ago.

Libyaʹs plight is a result of four decades of one-man rule

Gaddafiʹs was a fascistic, individualistic rule with ludicrous ideological misconceptions. They included drawing up plans to disrupt state institutions and turn them into functional tools for the sake of his imaginings and desires as "the one and only leader".

His rule also saw a deliberate neglect of the countryʹs physical infrastructure as well as its education and health services and its economic production. In a country swimming in oil and gas, he was a tyrant who despised those over whom he ruled as if he had a vendetta against them born of some hidden abuse in childhood.

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Comments for this article: Libya – failed state par excellence

A good beginning in putting the situation in a big picture of "civilisational" context. However, I always why most writers do not qualify "democracy" as if everybody agrees with the existing order. The socio-economic fomration in which this "democracy" functions is rarely questioned, especially in today's "neoliberal" form of capitalism that even liberal sccholars have attacked as a source of violence and destruction. The social groups/strata that formed the former Libyan regime and how the regime came about and why it took the features it took is fundamenetal in understanding why Libya could not have capitalist democracy. Neither Egypt, Syria or China. The focus on individuals doesn't help that much because the individuals themselves work within the trappings they found before them. There is a difference between structure and moment. Furthermore, one should not conflate the ideals of the French revolution and how capitalist democracy was established. Achieving full capitalist relations enabled democracy to emerge although capitalist democracy was co-existing with the subjugation of hundds of millions of people in India, Africa, the Middle East. Finally, dealing with destruction and civilisation, shouldn't we mention the biggest destruction in history that toook place in the 20th century? What role did it play in the declaration of human rights and furthering capitalist democracy?

Nédeem16.08.2019 | 15:45 Uhr