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Libya, A Broken State

Published: April 2, 2011, Author: Rÿser Rudolph C.

When as state is broken (meaning it cannot control its borders, its laws are not universally observed, there is a central government that exercises sovereignty over the territory, but is fragmented, and it fails to have a single military or police capacity to protect the borders and secure the population), then the international community has an obligation to redefine the political status of what was recognized as a state.  Libya is not nor has it been a state for some time.  Like Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma, R Congo, Somalia, Yemen, and Haiti the country of Libya is broken.

States’ governments and the United Nations work ever so vigorously to place band aids over bankrupt, often criminal activities in countries that have been broken pretending that the states can be “rebuilt.”  The problem is that such “states’ were never states in the first place…not in the classical, formal state definitional sense. States have been recognized in regions of the world where there is no historical precedent for such a political entity.  Totally different political histories and realities define large regions of the world. “Slapping” the label “state” on a region with diverse, unconsenting populations guarantees collapse or breakdown.

The state system becomes weaker when broken countries continue to function as if they are whole.  Money, political help, and military help is injected as if to suggest that these palliatives will restore a hobbled country, but in reality they simply serve to promote colonial influence (making the broken country behave in a way favorable to the occupying state). In time, the “repaired state” suffers the same problems that caused it to breakdown in the first place.

Libya (as with most other broken countries) should be broken up into smaller parts where the international community comes to recognize the stable political entities within (indigenous nations or federations) as “nations under international protective mandate.” These nations should have representation in the United Nations and should be incorporated into the international community on terms appropriate to their capacity and aspirations. The Gaddafi tribe in Libya will be overrun by others from other indigenous nations, and if the NATO/Arab alliance now prosecuting a “no-fly-zone” over Libyan air space tries to recognize a single ruler over a replacement to the Muammar Gaddafi in all likelihood his replacement will eventually act in much the same way as he.

The only alternative to a collapsed Libya is a federated state with real shared power, and then one must have doubts that the state will remain afloat. Getting the many tribes to share power with universal law, central authority, and protected borders will be a tough “row to hoe.” Some of those tribes have people and territory in neighboring states. some are very small while others are very large.  Some have ambitions to control more territory, while others fear the control of those ambitious tribes.

Neither Europe’s leaders nor US leaders, or Arabian state leaders have experience, knowledge or understanding of the cultural ways, political realities, and histories of the many peoples in Libya. Lacking such knowledge they are blind and “stupid.” Their actions may serve their interests, but deny the interests of the peoples they presume to assist. If they seek to remake Libya, they had better start learning and getting to know the peoples on the ground. They had better get to know indigenous peoples all over North Africa, Central Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and the world over. The reality is that these peoples are major factors in the international geopolitical realities of the 21st century.

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