The Great Debate

The Middle East needs its activist moment

By Michael Maiello
September 13, 2012

Two days after the death of U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi, Libya, protesters continue to mass outside of U.S. embassies in Egypt and Yemen. The protesters are apparently reacting to a low budget, anti-Muslim video made by Americans that was distributed in a trailer-like segment on YouTube. The murder of Stevens and three of his aides in Libya seems to be the work of a paramilitary group using the protests for cover. That group may or may not be affiliated with al Qaeda.

Libya’s revolution pushes democracy forward

By Michael Ignatieff
October 24, 2011

By Michael Ignatieff
The views expressed are his own.

We like to think we made it happen. First in Kosovo, now in Libya, we believe our air power made it happen. Western politicians are taking the credit, but the truth is, we didn’t make it happen, any more than we made the Arab Spring happen and the air operation itself would never have been approved at the UN without the green light from the Arab League. The people of Libya, the peoples of the Middle East made it happen. We all need to understand how little of this is about us. Otherwise we risk succumbing to the illusion that we can shape the future in the Middle East.

Libya’s democracy has a real chance

By Daniel Serwer
October 20, 2011

By Daniel Serwer
The views expressed are his own.

Libyans will be getting up late tomorrow morning, having enjoyed a spectacular celebration tonight.  “The Wizard of Oz” comes to mind:  “The witch is dead, the wicked witch is dead!”

Day 1 of the Libyan experiment

By Kyle Scott
October 20, 2011

By Kyle Scott
The opinions expressed are his own.

The U.S. has avoided some of the mistakes it made in Iraq and Afghanistan in its dealings with Egypt and Libya. While the context of the Arab Spring is entirely different from that of the invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan, the thought that democracy could be forced upon a nation has been avoided by the Obama administration in a post-Mubarak Egypt and a post-Gaddafi Libya. With Gaddafi’s death today, the challenge now is to continue taking this view while helping Libya move toward democracy. Working towards a successful transition requires adherence to two rules:

A new beginning for Libya

By Stefan Wolff
October 20, 2011

By Stefan Wolff
The views expressed are his own.

The fall of Sirte and the death of Colonel Gaddafi today most likely represents the finishing blow for the remnants of the old regime in Libya. They are a highly valuable prize that the National Transitional Council (NTC) fought hard to obtain and that should trigger the formal transition period that Libya’s now widely recognized government has envisaged to lead to democratic elections and a new constitution. Comparable only to the fall of Tripoli in late August, today marks a momentous achievement for a popular movement that twelve months ago was hardly conceivable, let alone in existence. For all intents and purposes, Libya’s is the only successful uprising of the Arab Spring to date.

What’s behind Libya’s fast march to democracy?

By Daniel Serwer
September 27, 2011

By Daniel Serwer
The views expressed are his own.

In a trip to Libya this month, just weeks after Muammar Qaddafi’s fall, I found peace coming fast to Tripoli, despite continued resistance in several Libyan towns.  Ten days ago, families with children mobbed Martyrs’ square, where Qaddafi once held forth, to commemorate the hanging 80 years ago of Libya’s hero of resistance against the Italians, Omar Mukhtar. Elementary schools opened last week. The university will open next month. Water and electricity are flowing. Uniformed police are on the street. Trash collection is haphazard but functioning.

Where does Libya go from here?

By Daniel Serwer
August 25, 2011

By Daniel Serwer
The opinions expressed are his own.

With the press focused on scenes of joy in Tripoli and Benghazi, continued skirmishes with regime loyalists, and speculation about where Gaddafi might turn up, it is time to lift our sights and focus on the really difficult transition ahead. If another autocrat succeeds Gaddafi, the transition could be over soon. But if Libya embarks on an effort to create a more democratic state, unified and inclusive in many dimensions, we’ll need to wait the better part of a decade to know whether it has succeeded or not.

Our disturbing relationship with Gaddafi

By Mark Ensalaco
August 23, 2011

By Mark Ensalaco
The opinions expressed are his own.

Thomas Jefferson once said “rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God.”

The Arab Spring is reminding the world that struggles for dignity, freedom, justice and human rights spring from our deepest aspirations as human beings. At the same time the dictatorial violence in Syria and Libya remind us of the evil that springs from the insatiable will to absolute power.

Top ten myths about the Libya war

By Juan Cole
August 22, 2011

By Juan Cole
The opinions expressed are his own.

The Libyan Revolution has largely succeeded, and this is a moment of celebration, not only for Libyans but for a youth generation in the Arab world that has pursued a political opening across the region. The secret of the uprising’s final days of success lay in a popular revolt in the working-class districts of the capital, which did most of the hard work of throwing off the rule of secret police and military cliques. It succeeded so well that when revolutionary brigades entered the city from the west, many encountered little or no resistance, and they walked right into the center of the capital. Muammar Qaddafi was in hiding as I went to press, and three of his sons were in custody. Saif al-Islam Qaddafi had apparently been the de facto ruler of the country in recent years, so his capture signaled a checkmate. (Checkmate is a corruption of the Persian “shah maat,” the “king is confounded,” since chess came west from India via Iran). Checkmate.

Why is Obama giving Libya to the Russians?

By John Bolton
July 19, 2011

By John Bolton
The opinions expressed are his own.

With President Obama’s Libya policy staggering from one embarrassment to another, last week he and Secretary of State Clinton outdid themselves. They publicly welcomed Russia’s effort to insert itself as a mediator, an act of such strategic myopia that it must leave even Moscow’s leadership speechless.