Will a post-Qaddafi Libya avoid anarchy?

Unlike Egypt and Tunisia, the big concern in Libya is whether there will be a competent caretaker government after Qaddafi's inevitable demise.

AP Photo/Hussein Malla
A popular defense committee man flashes V sign in front an anti-aircraft missile at an abandoned Libyan military base near Tobruk, Libya, this week. Heavy gunfire broke out in Tripoli as forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi tightened their grip on the Libyan capital while anti-government protesters claimed control of many cities elsewhere and top government officials and diplomats turn against the longtime leader.

Libya may descend into civil war. Or Muammar Qaddafi may realize that his cause is lost and flee in the hopes of sparing his family and cronies. Or more elements in the military may revolt, turning the tide in favor of the opposition.

One way or the other, the Libyan situation will end with Qaddafi passing from the scene. He may have troops and weapons, but without supply lines, he is under siege and eventually will be worn down and ousted.

But then what? In Egypt and Tunisia, the strongmen were deposed, but the regime, backed by a professional military, was there to ensure continuity and order.

How the political systems evolve in those countries is an open question, but both at least have a leadership cadre that is holding things together. Libya needs that as well. As more military and government official defect to the opposition, a group that may be able to manage after Qaddafi could be forming.

But the one-man show that was Qaddafi makes the Libyan transition more difficult than others after he is gone. That uncertainty -- combined with continued unrest elsewhere in the Middle East -- is likely to lead to continued volatility on oil and financial markets. What happens in the days ahead in the days ahead, in other words, could reverberate well beyond North Africa.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.