Despite Setbacks, Libya “Potential Beacon for Arab Transition”
In an editorial assessing the state of Libya’s transition, Frederic Wehrey, Senior Associate for the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment, outlines the pressing challenges and remarkable achievements facing the country two years into a revolution. Despite the messy, post-conflict setbacks in state building, and discourse in the West focused heavily on security, Wehrey holds that Libya is “a potential beacon for the Arab transition,” and observes that most Libyans remain guardedly optimistic about the future.
In evaluating the apparent weaknesses in post-conflict Libya, namely the question of autonomy among revolutionary brigades and the lack of deep-rooted institutions, Wehrey asserts that they in fact contribute to the relative stability and progress of the country, arguing that the absence of organized militias could have plunged Libya into internecine war similar to that of Iraq and Bosnia. Similarly, the grass-roots nature of the uprising, coupled with the lack of entrenched institutions, allowed no single group to dominate the post-conflict political arena and engendered broad civic participation in transitional governance.
Among the most pressing challenges facing Libya’s transition, Wehrey points out, are the incorporation of the brigades and eastern and southern regions into the national government, along with the constitution drafting process. By building confidence with local leaders weary of centralized control and convincing brigade members that they can be reintegrated into society not as fighters but as members of the work force, Wehrey argues trust and cooperation between the national government and the provinces can be restored. Furthermore, the national constitution must delineate the distribution of power among local and central bodies effectively in order to mediate internal conflict, define the role of Islam in society and help disarm revolutionary brigades.