Successfully reinventing Libya requires bridging these divisions. Iraq provides an immediate example of the difficulties. Libya, however, has advantages Iraq did not. Tunisia and Egypt, Libya's most important neighbors, are focused on transitioning from dictatorial regimes to parliamentary governments while bridging their own internal divisions. They have direct political and security interests in helping Libya make the same transition. Libya does not have an Iran on its border -- a radical dictatorship relentlessly promoting factional violence in order to destabilize Iraq's emerging democracy.
Diplomats and intelligence agencies are trying to sort out factional demands. In late May, Turkey sponsored discussions with a key Libyan tribal group. The group insisted that Gadhafi and his family had to be removed from power and denied any influence in a future Libyan government. The new government must also hold Gadhafi loyalists accountable for their violent attacks on civilians.
A broad national reconciliation process in Libya, backed by NATO, Tunisia and Egypt, would provide a political and judicial vehicle for meeting these legitimate revolutionary demands and thwart the violent revenge attacks that often follow a dictator's fall and then spiral into further civil war. Internationally sponsored courts holding investigations and trials in Libya would serve as an emotionally cathartic and politically instructive experience for the Libyan rebels. They would be a first step toward creating a democratic judicial system in Libya. The reconciliation process would also address the issue of fair distribution of oil revenues.
Libyan reconciliation has an ethnic dimension. Gadhafi scourged the Berbers. New Libya must guarantee Berber cultural rights and a degree of political autonomy. NATO and the U.N. must be prepared to back legitimate Berber political demands.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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