Libya, Failing Militia State

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Like a cad on a one-night stand, NATO and its associates bombed Muammar Gaddafi’s regime away, and with a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am gave scarcely a thought to the aftermath and the prospect of an aborted state. Initially, the Libyans who succeeded the toppled tyrant were pleased. The state was theirs to fashion with little overt external interference. But as insecurity spreads and allegations of gross financial mismanagement mount, many Libyans are wondering whether they are up to the job.

Part of the problem is the constitutional process. The lack of transparency in the country’s highest authority in post-Gaddafi Libya, the National Transitional Council, hampers the council’s interaction with its public, and undermines its legitimacy. (It is constantly adding new members–there were 86 at last count, but no one seems to have a list.) The council’s appointment of short-term governments ensures that the cabinets are lame ducks as soon as they take office. The current prime minister, Abdulrahim al-Keib, compounded this insecurity by setting a single target for his government–elections–and leaving reconstruction to his successors.

In a country awash with weapons, the lack of momentum has left the center dangerously devoid of tools and authority for establishing itself. Militias formed during the revolution to fight Gaddafi’s forces claim ownership of the revolution, and accuse the government composed of technocrats and exiles of stealing its spoils. New militias surfaced in Gaddafi’s former garrison towns in the center armed with hundreds of tanks and questionable commitments to the new order. In the absence of a state criminal justice system, these groups rounded up 5,000 prisoners, and held them without trial. The approach of the July 19 election date has hastened the militias’ resolve to carve out their prerogatives before an incoming government achieves a mandate based on the ballot box, not their revolutionary zeal.

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Curt served in the Marine Corps for four years and has been a law enforcement officer in Los Angeles for the last 24 years.

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