In the past days, Libya has devolved from an isolated, resource-rich nation to a country on the brink of civil war. When protesters inspired by uprisings across the Arab world challenged Qaddafi’s 42 years of iron-fisted rule, the “Brother Leader of the Revolution” vowed to crush the “drug fueled mice” opposing him. In the past several days, Qaddafi loyalists and mercenaries doing his bidding have reportedly killed over 1000 people. As Qaddafi digs in and vows to “fight on to the last drop of [his] blood”, few see signs of a quick exit for the dictator.
Arab leaders across the Middle East and North Africa have faced unprecedented challenges to their rule. Coup d’états in Egypt and Tunisia and ongoing civil unrest from Morocco to Bahrain have included violent crackdowns on civilians, but the scale and scope of the violence in Libya is unrivaled. Pro-Qaddafi forces are reportedly armed with high-velocity sniper rifles and anti-aircraft missiles. Qaddafi has ordered his forces to “cleanse Libya house by house” of all protesters. His son and heir apparent, Saif, has threatened civil war.
Experts and leaders alike have proven that predicting the outcome of these recent uprisings is virtually impossible. Tunisia’s Ben Ali and Egypt’s Mubarak relinquished power when the military withdrew support and political alliances crumbled. While Libya is neither Egypt nor Tunisia—as Qaddafi himself continues to remind the world—these lessons can serve as benchmarks for the ultimate success or failure of the protesters’ efforts. Militarily, as much as 80% of Qaddafi’s military has defected and he has been forced to import foreign mercenaries to defend his shrinking stronghold in Tripoli. The opposition has consolidated power in much of Libya’s east and is advancing. Politically, the situation for Qaddafi is dire. Ambassadors have resigned, the Arab League has suspended Libya, and several countries are mulling UN sanctions.
Ben Ali and Mubarak didn’t step down without a fight, but they eventually saw the writing on the wall. The fear for Libya is that Qaddafi may not be a rational actor able to judge the shifting tides of his own fortune. For a generation that grew up with Qaddafi as sponsor of the Lockerbie bombings and survivor of assassination attempts under Reagan, his brutality may not come as a surprise. Perhaps Qaddafi’s more recent image as the well-heeled (or at least uniquely-heeled) “King of Kings of Africa,” with billowing robes, decorative pins, and a beautiful all-female phalanx of bodyguards, distracted from his true brutality.
This bloody standoff has two possible outcomes: Either Qaddafi remains in power or he is deposed. If he crushes the opposition, retakes the eastern cities held by the protesters, and cobbles together political support from his inner circle, he may be able to cling to power. But where does this leave him? He will have lost the support of his people and destroyed relations with the rest of the world. Qaddafi is no stranger to international political isolation, but losing domestic support would be a political deathblow.
Qaddafi may also be deposed. In this scenario, he could remain in Libya but hand off power, flee the country, or be killed. His son Saif may step in to fill a major leadership role, but the protesters would never accept a son complicit in his father’s crimes (see: Egypt). Rumors circulated that Qaddafi was planning on escaping to Venezuela or Brazil. While this may have seemed a likely early option, the Libyan leader has vowed: “I will die here as a martyr”. Given the military and political tides shifting against him, Qaddafi’s ouster seems increasingly likely.
Protesters and much of the world are vying for a speedy exit, but few have explored the transition the day after. Qaddafi’s successful efforts at denying the growth of national institutions or civil society have created a stillborn system. No one has emerged as a leader of the opposition capable of governing a post-Qaddafi Libya. Whether Qaddafi remains in power or a new leader emerges, Libya faces serious governance challenges in the months and years ahead.
More Faster News:
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 2 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 3 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 4 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 5 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Startup
- 6 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 7 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 8 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 9 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook
- 10 Shaq Confident He Will Eventually Make Funny Quip on TNT