Libya: Too Early for Victory Parades

By Ali Younes

In their stealthy and coordinated advance on the Libyan capital Tripoli last Sunday, the Libyan rebels transformed their 8 months uprising from indecisive low-intensity war into the possibility of an imminent victory over the Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi. But according to news reports it is still too early for the rebels to claim complete control of the capital and to hold the victory parades and rallies in the streets of Tripoli. Amid wide spread chaos and confusion that ensued after they converged on the capital last Sunday makes it very difficult to know who is in control of the capital. Qaddafi and his sons, meanwhile, are unlikely to give up their powers and abandon the fight just yet.

What helps Qaddafi surviving at this point, and possibly dragging this fight for many months to come is the rebels’ ragtag army where it lacks military experience and is commanded by untested leadership. The rebels’ war fighting abilities were also disastrous despite NATO and American quick infusion of Special Forces trainings of their fighters in the past several months.

But that’s not a fault of their own, 40 years of Qaddafi’s rule transformed Libya from state where a constitution and laws existed, into an invertebrate of state that only existed in fiction not reality.

Qaddafi’s state was spineless; it had no institutions, no laws and no civic leaders or real political leaders except him and his sons. The rebels’ confusion and lack of experience was evident when its leadership announced that they wrested control over much of the capital and that it held 3 of Qaddafi’s sons, only to find out 2 days later that this claim was inaccurate. Saif al- Islam Qaddafi showed himself in the streets of Tripoli Monday night  in an act of defiance that was designed more to embarrass the rebels leadership than showing a real strength by Qaddafi’s forces.

As a consequence, the rebel leadership came to rely on NATO military support in order to continue to fight Qaddafi’s better equipped and better trained forces and to keep its hard-won territories from falling back to Qaddafi’s forces. The rebels relations with NATO and other Western governments, however, is that of complete dependency without which the rebels would have no hope of ever overthrowing Qaddafi from power.

For NATO and Western powers, the real issue is not that of democracy or the freedom of the Libyan people. Up until last year, Western countries welcomed Qaddafi with open arms in their capitals. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose real motives were Libyan oil contracts, treated Qaddafi personally like his beloved cousin giving him lavish treatment befitting of a resurrected Roman Emperor.

French president Nicolai Sarkozy dipped his hand in Qaddafi’s unlimited and generous piggy bank in order to finance his presidential campaign. Even Turkey’s popular Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan, whose popularity extends in large swaths of the Arab World, was not much different than his European neighbors in keeping close and intimate ties with Qaddafi. Those leaders were quick to jump off the ship after realizing that Qaddafi’s ship is sinking

The new Libyan leaders, however, have no other choice but to feel indebted to NATO and Western powers for helping them reach where they are now. Those leaders, many of them are truly patriotic Libyans; realize that the West is only in love with the Libyan oil, not the Libyan people but feel that NATO is the only instrument they have at this point to undo the damage Qaddafi has done to the country for over 40 years. It is important however for the new Libyan leaders to avoid falling in love with NATO and Western powers for they might end up in the same position Qaddafi found himself in after trusting them and spending billions of the Libyan people’s money on them. It also important to learn the lessons of Iraq where its current leadership was installed by American soldiers after deposing Saddam Hussein from power and ended up being only few shades different than Saddam Hussein in its failure, brutality and corruption.

The future of Libya, moreover, will likely depend on the course of action taken by the new leaders.  Several new Libyan leaders told Al Arabiya news yesterday that the new Libya will be a democracy and will be governed by the rule of law.  This is reassuring, and it is also important to know that the outcome of the Libyan revolt, whatever it may be, will have a huge material and moral impact in the Arab world particularly Syria and Yemen where two other Qaddafis are waging war against their citizens to force themselves and their families on them.

– Ali Younes is a writer and a political analyst based in Washington D.C. He contributed this article to Contact him at:

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