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As Libya Seethes, Pols Squabble Over Loot

The beautiful and shiny new democracy in Libya continues to experience teething troubles; today the designated prime minister has been forced to step aside after his second failure to get a slate of ministers approved by a fractious parliament.

Mustafa Abu Shagur, who spent the last few years in the United States as an optical engineer and academic (as the BBC reports), wanted a government that wasn’t dominated by patronage networks and a regional carve-up of the spoils. The Libyan parliament in its wisdom, however, wants exactly that kind of government: the prospect of redividing the country’s hydrocarbon wealth has every town, every clan and every tribe plotting night and day to grab what it considers a fair share of the money the Qaddafis and a handful of their cronies used to have.

None of this is about democracy or development or good governance. The horrible Qaddafi regime has been destroyed, and the weak coalitions of aspiring kleptocrats now scheming to take power in his stead will likely be less dreadful than a man who truly was one of the monsters of our time.  But Qaddafi didn’t come out of nowhere. The tribal and regional divisions in Libya that he manipulated on his road to dictatorship still exist and it’s likely that if anything the social and cultural state of the country has been further weakened and corrupted by three decades of arbitrary government and divide and rule political management.

Armed militias roam the country, Al-Qaeda has something of a free hand, and American diplomats in between dodging terror attacks are scrambling to put some semblance of a government together. Have we seen any of this movie before?

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