Gaddafi’s End and the Arab Spring

We all know now the brutal end of Col. Gaddafi. His death, which in some ways was inevitable once he refused to cede power and started to slaughter his people, reaffirms the hard saying:  you live by the sword and you die by the sword.

But his death while a milestone in the events and meaning of the Arab Spring, will not be the decisive moment of the Arab uprising. Rather, the most significant elements of this historic change will be the building of moderate, democratic and fair governments or the decline into further division, clan warfare, or quasi-military rule. The recent peaceful election in Tunisia may prove a positive model.

Obama set the right tone in his short statement about moving towards the re-building of Libya and proving a helping hand in assisting in establishing a civic structure and the economy. His emphasis was on a multilateral approach which has long been urged by many, including ourselves.

If the Transitional National Council can broaden its membership and if moderates can work together, along with the adequate resources available, progress should be possible. America is also smart to provide $40 million to assist Libya in securing weapons. But it will be a long road given a history of barbaric rule and lack of civic institutions, regional divisions, and armed elements throughout the country.

For America and our allies it reaffirms Obama’s efforts of looking for multilateral solutions along with the lightest of military footprints possible to achieve success. The contrasts could not be greater with the unneeded and lied-about invasion of Iraq by Bush and his wrongheaded and costly strategy and tactics in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  It validates Obama’s cautious approach to conflict and serious seeking of effective alternatives while still preserving and using military/covert tools when necessary, as exemplified in his bold taking out of Bin Laden and many of his key lieutenants as well as using diplomatic tools or what some call “soft power” to gain key objectives.  It is really a good case study in lower cost “smart power.”

What I fear is that the Republicans in Congress will deny him the necessary resources via USAID/State Department funding to provide assistance not only to Libya but also other nations of the Arab Spring.  It seems the Republicans want him to fail both in growing our economy at home and in our leadership and security abroad. We used to be better than that.  A lot is at stake in this still dangerous world for silliness and meanness to dominate our politics.

By Harry C. Blaney III.

Next Steps for Libya’s Transitional National Council and for the Libyan People’s Future?

We are getting closer to seeing the testing moment of whether or not the Transitional National Council (TNC) will be able to work together as a stable interim government rather than a rather fractious fighting rebel force. They have gained recognition by a wide group of nations including now the U.S. and the Arab League, which sets the stage for external help.

The proof will be if the TNC’s efforts successfully create a better future for its people and provide the basis for promoting reconciliation and democracy as well as create democracy and prosperity for that nation.  Certainly, they have the advantage of some major resources in their oil producing capacity (about 3% of world production) and their now “embargoed” massive Libyan assets which can soon be made available for useful investment in the country.  They also have a fairly high literacy rate unlike what we see in Afghanistan.

Equally, we will be seeing if the NATO powers and the Arab allies will be able to provide the vital necessary assistance in a timely way and in forms that immediately impact the lives, well being, and especially employment–particularly of the youths of that nation, who are now so armed and engaged that they present both an element of instability and a promising source of talent to rebuild their now fairly devastated nation.

Libya needs an economic plan not dissimilar to what Obama would have liked in America if the Republicans had not vetoed it and thus prolonged our sad economic decline we are now seeing. But clearly, for Libya, a real stimulus is just what the doctor ordered to achieve growth and economic renewal.

We made some major mistakes in Iraq and in Afghanistan regarding getting their economies and security systems established and working.  Let’s not make the same mistake while the Arab world is watching and its implications loom large for the future of the “Arab Spring” and, thus, the evolution of the Arab world towards modernity and democracy.

There are plenty of “shovel ready” projects in rebuilding the damage that six months of civil war have created. (Just like there are in America with our own deteriorated infrastructure where the government can employ millions for massive long term national benefits.)  In Libya this can, in the end, all be paid for by oil money.  (In the US it can be paid for by our own increased productivity and revenue plus savings from less imported oil and fewer unemployment checks and destitute families.)  But it requires the full mobilization of both national resources and help from outside experts, companies, and international organizations with expertise in rebuilding countries that have experienced major damage. It means massive educational and training programs that lead to real jobs. Such an effort is likely to make building national unity easier when all have a stake in success.  The coming six months of victory and rebuilding will be even more important than the six months of civil war!

Comments invited!

By Harry C. Blaney III.