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Anarchy in Libya

An unpleasant story in today’s Wall Street Journal shows us that among the many side effects of the Libya adventure has been not just instability among Libya’s neighbors but also a certain kind of lawlessness within Libya itself. In Libya, it’s not the kind of sectarian violence that periodically convulses Iraq, pitting the country’s security forces against militias that terrorize the populace through bombings and kidnappings. Rather in Libya the security forces are complicit in the crimes, as democratically elected officials stand helplessly by:

At sunrise on Saturday, suspected Libyan adherents of the rigid Salafi school of Islam brought bulldozers into the center of Tripoli and flattened the expansive, centuries-old Sidi Al-Sha’ab shrine. Uniformed members of at least two separate government security divisions that answer to the Interior Ministry barricaded the busy seafront road where the religious complex was located and allowed the daylong demolition to continue, according to witnesses.

Who are these Salafis? Losers in the latest elections:

The brazen attacks in two cities underscore the shaky nature of the emerging democracy in Libya, where elected officials have little sway over security forces. The destruction has raised fears that conservative religious groups—whose candidates were soundly beaten in the country’s July election—may attempt to sabotage Libya’s transition to a secular, modern state.

A government needs an army or it isn’t really a government, no matter how many people vote for it. Judging by this standard, Libya doesn’t really have a government.

Building a new Libyan army loyal to the elected government will take time and money. And someone will have to provide security until the new army is ready to stand up. Who will that be? Britain? France? Bueller? Anybody?

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  • thibaud

    What does Mead recommend as US policy toward Libya?

  • f1b0nacc1

    How about avoiding situations like this in the first place?

  • Luke Lea

    Just to remind, a state by definition (Max Weber’s definition that is) must have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. To expect such a monopoly to arise voluntarily in a tribal society like Libya, or in any tribal society for that matter, begs credulity. The same goes for Syria. It’s one thing for political correctness not to allow us to say these things out loud in public, another to let public policy actually be dictated by denial of the realities.

  • Corlyss

    Isn’t this merely tribal hostilities tarted up.

  • Fred

    I don’t know what Professor Mead would say, Thibaud, but as far as I’m concerned, our policy should be to support whatever strong man looks like he can maintain order. Savages are like children, they need a strongman kicking butt or all they’ll do is slaughter each other. I say find the most pro-American, or at least the least anti-American, tyrant we can and arm him to the teeth so he can maintain some semblance of order among those lunatics.

  • Luke Lea

    Hbd*chick has a pertinant post up today:

    Read down til you come to consensus democracies in Arab world

  • thibaud

    Why is the Professor so quiet on this and every other middle eastern hotspot?

    It’s easy, not to mention cheap, to sneer at the those in office faced with policy dilemmas, but what does Mead himself suggest we should do?

    It reminds me of the potshots that Bush’s critics used to take at him regarding the bad and worse options we faced vis-a-vis Saddam.

    Unless Mead is willing to apply some of his own expertise here and put his views on the line, it comes across as bad faith.

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