Leadership Conflict in Libya is Neither Surprising nor Alarming

I supported NATO’s intervention in Libya since it started, but after it dragged on longer than I expected, I worried that maybe it would lead to a pro-longed Civil War. However, with the fall of Tripoli last month, it became apparent that Gaddafi was defeated, even if he is still on the run with some remaining loyalists. I received an email today from someone who criticized my support for the intervention when it began, and as a way to imply that I was wrong all along, he shared an article with me about the emerging conflict in leadership.

In today’s current 24/7 news cycle, stories of tension between Libyan leaders become major news stories that alarm people who fear the Libyan revolution will end up causing chaos and leading to another corrupt government. Although this outcome is still possible, it is way too early to judge the revolution as a disaster simply because of a conflict of beliefs among the leaders. Essentially, the conflict — which has not led to any violence yet — is between conservative Muslims and liberals who want a secular and democratic state. In short, it’s merely a conflict between conservatives and progressives. Is that not what we are dealing with in the United States anyway?

Nobody ever expected the Libyan revolution to happen over night or come easy. Revolutions are never easy. When being ruled by one government for 42 years, where free speech was denied, you cannot expect a swift transfer of power to a new government that pleases everyone. Of course there will be struggles between different factions. Has there ever been a revolution that did not include different factions? The American Revolution certainly was not swift; many opposed breaking away from the British, then many opposed the Articles of Confederation, and when that was replaced by the Constitution years later, many people opposed the Constitution as well, and even then there were struggles for power. Even into the beginning of the nineteenth century, the conflict between the pro-British Federalists and pro-French Republicans threatened to destabilize the young democracy, and some New England leaders pondered secession during the War of 1812. America did not become a democracy overnight; there were many struggles for power between different factions for years. Calling the Libyan Revolution a failure already would be like calling the American Revolution a failure after Shay’s Rebellion exposed the weakness of the Articles of Confederation in dealing with crises. Let history play out before judging whether the Libyan Revolution is a success or not.

So we should neither be surprised or alarmed that there is some conflict between Libya’s leaders. Conservatives and liberals exist everywhere, and they will not agree with each other on many issues, but the goal is to create a democratic government that represents both factions and the allow the people to be in charge of their own political future. It is possible the Libyan Revolution may end up being a disaster where the struggle for power becomes violent, and a strict non-democratic Islamic state is forced on the people, but it is far too early to reach any such conclusions yet. The government has not even been created yet. But the people in Tripoli seem excited about the idea of a democratic and free government, as proposed by NTC Chairman Jalil.





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