Libya’s Unwilling Revolutionaries

TRIPOLI – Egypt is not the only place where the bright hopes of the Arab Spring are fading. From attacks against Western governments to ethnic clashes in remote desert oases, Libya’s revolution is faltering.

The blame for Libya’s current travails rests largely with the interim government that led the uprising. The National Transitional Council refuses to make difficult decisions, instead palming them off to a future elected government. The NTC has preserved much of the institutional paralysis and knee-jerk behavior typical of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi’s overthrown regime. If the Libyan revolution is to succeed, the country’s new leaders must make a clean break with the spirit of the past.

During his 42 years in power, Qaddafi surrounded himself with advisers who were companions from his youth, supplemented by a small coterie of technocrats. As a result, the leaders of the revolt that overthrew him have little government experience. And, in a country where any political activity was considered treasonous, many expected the neophyte NTC to stumble early and often. And so it has.

Indeed, the revolution was never a smooth affair. When fighters failed to defeat loyalist forces on their own, outside powers were compelled to intervene. Later, the NTC was unable to impose discipline on the myriad militias that formed to fight Qaddafi’s troops, or even to direct foreign weapons efficiently to the fledgling Libyan National Army. When the military chief of staff was assassinated in July under mysterious circumstances, the NTC could not offer concrete answers to an angry public. With no access to Libyan assets frozen abroad, it frequently paid salaries weeks in arrears.