Splitsville in Libya?
A military stalemate could result in de facto partition of Libya, with Muammar Qaddafi controlling the west and rebels the east. That wouldn't be good for Libya or regional stability.
If the military stalemate continues in Libya, the country appears headed for de facto partition. Or so it is argued. Libya would split along tribal lines, between supporters of Muammar Qaddafi in the west, and rebel supporters in the oil-rich east. A divided Libya, it is also argued, must be vigorously avoided.Skip to next paragraph
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But why? Didn’t the 20th century move toward geopolitical divorce? South Asia split up after the fall of the British Empire and the Soviet Union splintered after communism’s demise. Individual countries broke up, too, including Pakistan, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia.
A more recent example sits on Libya’s border. In a referendum in January, Southern Sudanese voted for independence from Sudan after decades of bloody civil war. Like its southern neighbor, isn’t Libya also an “artificial state” whose borders – like much of Africa and the Middle East – were drawn up without regard to tribe or religion by occupying powers, now gone?
And yet, Libya would be ill advised to divide in two.
For starters, Libyans don’t want it – neither the rebels (according to their leaders) nor Qaddafi (based on his military tactics).
Yes, tribal tensions are strong, exploited by the brutal Qaddafi to build loyal supporters during his four decades in power. But the much larger fight is democracy versus dictatorship.
Defections of top officials show cracks in Qaddafi’s support, as does his obvious propaganda machine of protesters whose same faces appear at events staged for foreign journalists. Beyond his inner circle and own tribe, loyalty to the colonel may by now reach no deeper than bribes, favors, and sadly, fierce intimidation.
One also has to question the “artificial state” assumption. It has to be pointed out that the Middle East and North Africa have existed within their present borders – albeit under firm fists – longer than many other geopolitical unions in the world. A certain nationalism has taken root.