Monday, February 21, 2011

Libya: Not a Good Day for the Colonel

This has not been a good day for Libya's Colonel Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi.

Some of his air force pilots were told to bomb protesters. Two of them got in their jets, took off, dropped under Libyan radar, and headed for Malta. Looks like at least one of them asked for asylum there.

However that works out: two of Libya's military jets are now on the ground in Malta, along with their pilots. Killing protesters doesn't seem to be working as a way to win the minds and hearts of Libyans.

At least Qadhafi's isn't the only old-school regime that's unraveling: on the 'misery loves company' principle.

Qadhafi? Qaddafi? Gaddafi?

The Libyan colonel's name comes out in English as Qadhafi, Qaddafi, Gaddafi, by the way: and probably other ways as well. I've discussed what happens when words get transferred between languages that don't share the same writing system. (January 25, 2009) Even when both use a phonetic system, like Arabic and Latin alphabets, it's tricky - and that's another topic.

'Looks Good on Paper'

Libya is one of those countries whose government looks good on paper. How it's actually run - I'll get back to that.

Here's an excerpt from a backgrounder on what probably seemed like a good idea at the time:


"The Italians supplanted the Ottoman Turks in the area around Tripoli in 1911 and did not relinquish their hold until 1943 when defeated in World War II. Libya then passed to UN administration and achieved independence in 1951. Following a 1969 military coup, Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-QADHAFI began to espouse his own political system, the Third Universal Theory. The system is a combination of socialism and Islam derived in part from tribal practices and is supposed to be implemented by the Libyan people themselves in a unique form of "direct democracy." QADHAFI has always seen himself as a revolutionary and visionary leader....

"...conventional long form: Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

"conventional short form: Libya

"local long form: Al Jamahiriyah al Arabiyah al Libiyah ash Shabiyah al Ishtirakiyah al Uthma

"local short form: none

"Government type: Jamahiriya (a state of the masses) in theory, governed by the populace through local councils; in practice, an authoritarian state..."
("Libya," CIA World Factbook (last updated January 25, 2011))
I think one of the problems with governments whose leaders say they want to let 'the masses' lead - is that 'the masses' often don't agree with the leaders.

Back to what's happening in Libya.

Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya: Career Crises for Autocrats

The Libyan colonel may take some solace in the knowledge that he's not alone. Tunisia and Egypt's people have swapped out their leadership, and quite a number of other countries in that part of the world may be doing the same in short order.

Short-Term Outlook: Uncertain

In the short run, I'm a bit concerned about who's going to grab power in these previously-'stable' countries. Iran's ayatollahs may have some new friends soon. Or enemies. These self-styled defenders of Islam can't seem to agree on just what 'Islam' is supposed to be - and that's yet another topic.

I'd be mildly surprised if old-school socialist/Marxist/communist 'people's republics' came out of the mess. I could be wrong about this: but I think that too many folks in too many places have found out just what a 'workers paradise' was really like.

I'm pretty sure that there will be a few dedicated folks who won't give up on the idea of a Marxist/socialist/whatever state that works: just as I'm pretty sure that a few dedicated folks here in America will keep on assuming that 'the commies' are to blame what they don't like.

The rest of us, I think, have moved on.

Problem is, some folks have moved in the direction of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and like-minded outfits. And that isn't another topic.

For the next few years - maybe decades - I think there's a real chance that some bunch of self-assured fanatics will grab control of Libya, or another of the countries that's melting down today.

Long-Term Outlook: Even More Uncertain, As Usual

A few hundred years from now? I think there's a real chance that some of these countries will have found a way to pull their culture, tribal and national identities, and economies into the Information Age.

And by then, we'll all be dealing with some other set of troubles. No great surprise there: The one thing I'm fairly confident about is that change will continue to happen.

On the 'up' side, life probably won't get boring. Not any time soon.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.