The execution of Muammar Qaddafi is not the end or even a turning of a page in Libya. It is rather a chapter that has yet to be written. The subject of which will depend on the kind of regime that will rise in Libya after being controlled by one man for nearly a half century, and there is much to be decided. Can the hodgepodge of factions pull together, create a fair and representative government? Will the regions and tribes agree on how to produce oil and share its revenue? Will the Libyan rebels, now that their goal has been accomplished, abandon mob rule and transition toward the process needed to create a working and peaceful society?
Ed Husain, The Real Risk of Chaos
But in Qaddafi’s death were also clues to the real risks of chaos and extremism that can spread in the region. The lack of Arab outcry, for example, about the public manhandling and mobile-phone recording of his blood-stained corpse by his killers is an indication that yesterday’s rebels are not necessarily prepared to embrace democratic culture. Why was Qaddafi not put on trial after capture, like the Nazis at Nuremberg, instead of being killed, with a baying mob allowed to parade and cheer around him?
Democracy is about much more than removal of dictators and elections. The rule of law, due process, human rights and the vital need for a democratic culture is yet to emerge in the region. In the absence of the manifestation of these principles, we are seeing Christians being killed in Egypt, cinemas being burnt in Tunisia, and demands for hard-line interpretations of sharia as state law being made by Salafist groups.
All is not lost. These are the short-term challenges the region will face. But unless a pluralist, democratic mind-set grips the political classes, who can then respond to people’s needs for jobs, houses, health care and education, then we will see increased conflict in the region. Put simply, ridding dictators will seem easier than embedding democracies that can deliver for their people.
While there is much to celebrate in the removal of the hard-man on Libya, there is much needed work still to do. The questions over power and security have to be resolved. Aside from being rich in oil, Libya has also amassed a large stockpile of conventional and unconventional weapons. The kind of weapons terrorists would love to gain access to. Not comforting is the well reported fact that tens-of-thousands surface-to-air missiles, small arms, and anti-armor rocket propelled grenades have gone missing. Many of which have already turned up in Palestine via Egypt and the Bedouin ran Sinai.
Debating political theory in the aftermath of Qaddafi is one thing, worrying about security and a possible new front for the war on terror is quite another. The Libyans will be solely responsible for their future but the side-effects of possible chaos will threaten all nations.