Monday, 21 February 2011

Libya and 'reform'

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shows every sign of losing power rapidly, as his diplomats and at least one minister jump from the sinking ship. They are one of the best indicators possible, because they presumably have direct contacts with people inside the regime in Tripoli and I doubt they would defect unless they were confident that Gaddafi was doomed. Calls for 'reform' from U.S. and European politicians will win them no credit at this late stage, because this is clearly a regime that was always incapable of reform. I last went to Libya in early 2004, just after the United States and its allies were so thrilled by the pathetic charade of Libya abandoning what it pretended was a nuclear weapons programme. They even managed to convince large numbers of their own peoples that this was a real change of heart by Gaddafi, and the sycophantic thinktankers went along with the farce so that Bush could snatch some kind of victory from his abysmal Middle East policy. I remember at the time that U.S. Congress people and European politicians were falling over themselves for a piece of the pie (in other words so that U.S. and European oil companies could make more money) and arguing that Libya could suddenly become a liberal democracy. What they deliberately overlooked (and this was evident to anyone who ever saw the man in person) was that Gaddafi has been a seriously disturbed individual for many years. I'm not a psychologist to be able to diagnose his condition but he was clearly quite detached from reality as early as the late 1980s, when I first met him. I never managed to speak to him privately because that was a 'privilege' only available to attractive females, several of whom had to run away to escape his amorous advances. Gaddafi has driven his country into the ground and it was always shocking to see the decrepit state of government offices, which were no cleaner or better equipped than those in Egypt, where per capita GDP is about one tenth of what it is in Libya. Unfortunately recovering from 40 years of Gaddafi may well be much harder than recovering from 30 years of Mubarak. Egypt at least has the rudiments of a functioning state, whereas Gaddafi was a strange paradox -- an autocratic anarchist. He shared none of the usual objectives one might expect from the leader of such a country, such as economic development or diversification away from dependence on oil. Everything was haphazard and spontaneous, like his rambling speeches, which were 5 percent candid common sense and 95 percent histrionic fantasy.   

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