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On Libya and Liberty

Article by Amanda Schnetzer August 25, 2011 //   3 minute read

North Africa has seen a tumultuous, if also hopeful, eight months.  Consider the events that occurred on three dates: •January 14:  Zine El Abidine Ben Ali departs Tunisia. •February 14: Hosni Mubarak resigns in Egypt. •August 23:  Muammar Qaddafi flees his compound in Tripoli, the capital of Libya. For all its complexities—and there are many—the departure this week of another Middle East autocrat reminds us that the desire for human freedom is universal and when individuals break through fear, dictators will fall.  The events in Libya also remind us that building democracy is messy, difficult and requires strategic support; the challenges are enormous and success is not guaranteed.  Two recent articles amplify these facts in the context of this week’s events in Libya: In his August 22 blog post for ForeignPolicy.com, Marc Lynch of George Washington University writes: “The Arab public embraced the Libyan uprising in February, which began less than a week after Mubarak's fall. They saw the Libyan revolution as part of their own common story of peaceful, popular challenges to entrenched authoritarian rule.… Arab activists across the region will now likely try to jump-start protest movements which had lost momentum.” And in his August 24 column for the Los Angeles Times, Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations warns: “Even under the best of circumstances, Libya would have a difficult time making a transition to anything approaching democratic rule. Kadafi has so dominated Libyan life with his cult of personality…that few if any independent institutions remain.  Entire generations know nothing but his despotism….[T]here remains a real danger of catastrophe.” At a recent conference for the Bush Center’s Human Freedom Initiative, President Bush captured the sentiment this way:  “Sometimes the seed [of freedom] is planted on rocky soil and it takes time.”  It also takes steadfast support.  And if the advocates of freedom in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East are to have any chance of success, steadfast support is what they will need—and more.


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