Libya: What next after the stalemate? – An Analysis By Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

As the ding-dong battle continues and there are clear signs of its grinding to a stalemate, the West and their internal collaborators in Libya (the Benghazi rebels) must be biting their fingers and looking for other means to disengage before the citizens in those Western countries turn the heat on their leaders. Public opinion against the devastation going on in Libya will soon turn against these leaders, especially considering the fact that their own citizens don’t seem to appreciate their accomplishments in office to warrant the dissipation of their countries’ resources on this mission of chasing a mirage in the Sahara Desert.

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In the final analysis, they will have no other option but to do two things:

Admit the failure of their military option and turn to the very political and diplomatic solutions (mooted by the African Union and the Gaddafi government itself) that they either spurned or didn’t factor into their strategies for helping resolve the Libyan crisis;

Pull out of Libya as a confirmation of their failed military operations. This may be a difficult decision for them to make and carry through but they will have no other option but to choose it as a face-saving measure for disengagement.

In turning to the political and diplomatic option, they will have to unwind the screws that they’ve tightened against the Libyan government as far as their dealings with the Transitional National Council at the different meetings that they’ve held in Doha and Berlin (to which they didn’t invite the Libyan government) are concerned.

They will also have to undo the harm that their shortsightedness on that score has caused if they want to gain any iota of credibility for their changed minds and attitude toward finding lasting solutions to the Libyan crisis.

By rushing to recognize the Transitional National Council as the “legitimate government of Libya” without even waiting to establish that it is a reliable institution, France and Italy set a bad precedent that will have to be wiped off from the slate before any move to include the Gaddafi government in the political agenda. As the situation currently stands, these two parallel institutions (the TNC and the existing Libyan government headed by Gaddafi) cannot work together. One will have to yield grounds to the other. And because the Gaddafi government has collapsed to warrant its replacement by the TNC, a common ground will have to be found to accommodate the varying interests of these political forces.

Initially, both the TNC and the Gaddafi government may sit at negotiation table in their separate identities and capacities as representing different political entities; but when their differences get ironed out, there should be only one voice, which must be the legitimate authority that the Libyan people know—the Gaddafi government. Any negotiated settlement for the withdrawal of the Gaddafi family will eventually create opportunities for the departure of Gaddafi and the end of any intention to create a Gaddafi dynasty.

Unless anybody has any hidden agenda, the negotiated settlement that will restore sanity to Libya shouldn’t have any room for the TNC to be based in Benghazi. The TNC will no more be relevant under the circumstance, meaning that all foreign support for it (whether through financial or material means) must cease and genuine steps taken to account for what has already been given to it so that all could be mopped up to serve better purposes.

Those to be tasked with seeking a political and diplomatic solution to the Libyan crisis will have to demonstrate unalloyed genuineness and purposefulness toward solving the problem without giving the slightest hint that they have taken sides and will gear deliberations toward satisfying partisan interests. Genuine efforts to find lasting solutions must begin from a dispassionate re-appraisal of the Libyan peculiarities to allow the Libyans themselves to determine what will best work well for them. Any attempt to impose choices on them will backfire.

Particularly, a clear working definition must be found for “democracy” and the Libyans themselves allowed to choose the political direction that will best serve their country’s interests, given the complicated role that ethnicity plays in national politics. It is imperative that ethnic sentiments be respected and enough room created for the representation of all interests.

A reliable time-table for the ironing out of the Gaddafi element should be fashioned out of deliberations. The proposals made by the Libyan government (which the country’s Foreign Minister has already hinted at) should also be seriously discussed for adoption if they fulfill the aspirations of the people.

The blueprint for solving the crisis must also include a clear-cut time-table for the re-organization of the Libyan political system so that the factors that gave rise to the rebellion can be identified and properly taken care of to prevent any recurrence of such uprisings in future.

Within the context of Gaddafi’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Revolution), a programme aimed at limiting the Gaddafi presence should determine how much of that Revolution should be retained or weeded out to allow for new approaches toward governance. It is undeniable that any effort to introduce new strategies for governance should be shaped by contemporary political imperatives; and if the system of representation that undergirds the Revolution is anachronistic, it will have to be supplanted by others that are better suited to the current demands of the people and their country.

That is a crucial issue that Gaddafi will have to accept, knowing very well that the ultimate objective of the political and diplomatic option is to ensure a smooth transition from his autocracy to a new political dispensation to cater for the interests of those who have for long opposed his government. It is only when those dissenting voices are recognized and given visibility that they will be willing to make concessions. Accommodating such dissenting voices is a must, which means that everything must be done to redefine and re-align the political parameters. The paradigm shift that is to occur in the Libyan political system must be allowed to run its full course if a post-Gaddafi era should be stable and productive.

Libya is at the crossroads and has to be helped to get out of the quagmire. Genuine efforts toward that end must come from all those who have in one way or the other contributed to this stalemate. Restoring peace, stability, and tranquility to that part of the world must be everybody’s concern. That is why no one should be allowed to impose any prefabricated measures on the system or seek to satisfy parochial interests there.

At this point, it is important for the West to know that the extent of damage they are causing in Libya will have more for that country to worry about than whatever benefits they might anticipate in entering the fray But we can’t lose sight of the fact that rebuilding Libya will be the task of the very countries that are destroying its infrastructure today. Companies on those countries will definitely get contracts to rebuild the country; and Libya has enough crude oil to pay for the costs. So, in the end, the West hopes to benefit from a plight that they have created for Libya. That is the plain truth, and nothing but the truth that will hurt the West but which it must be told.

In the interim, now that the war-mongers themselves are becoming pessimistic about their military option, the African Union must not sit on the fence after its overtures had been repudiated by the rebels and their backers. The AU must get together its team of peace-brokers and call an emergency meeting to work out modalities for speeding up the negotiation process for peace and stability to be restored to Libya.

The stalemate in the military engagement offers a good opportunity for the AU to reassert its influence as a continental body that should be the first point-of-call in this drive to resolve the crisis. It must not recede to the background to give the war-mongers the frontline role. The time has come for the AU to return to the scene with its blueprint. It is only when it does so that it can claw back the public goodwill that its lethargy made it lose at the initial stages of the conflict.

The Libyan crisis is an African problem that must be solved through African initiatives of fellow-feeling and peace, not a widespread but futile show of force. Gaddafi erred in using force to suppress genuine protests against his long and dictatorial rule but the West worsened the situation by using the same military option to worsen the situation. Now that the beam covering the West’s eyes seems to be removed to know that there can never be any winner in this battle for Libya, the time has come for common sense to be given a chance.