Libya: Export Democracy?

As Libya’s interim government announces that rebel forces have made advances on Sabha, one of the last Qaddafi strongholds, questions must be raised concerning the future for foreign involvement in Libya.

In International Affairs, the concept behind Selectorate Theory helps illustrate the problems behind Democracies trying to implement a government that reflects their own values.  Selectorate Theory explains that because the winning coalition of a Democracy is a large proportion of the population, the head of state will be forced to appease the winning coalition by reflecting their values through his actions.  Therefore, if the Democracy were to be involved in a civil war, such as Libya’s, the Democracy would try to implement a transitional government that reflects the foreign power and the winning coalition.  Under these circumstances, the Democracy will be focused on profit and its own people, not the people of the usurped country.  So saying, once a “puppet” Democracy has been implemented by the foreign powers, the people of the usurped country will realize that their new government does not represent them or their values.  For these reasons, dissent and anti-west sentiment will grow within the usurped country and these circumstances will provide fertile ground for dictators and the return to civil strife.  With the exception of Japan after 1945, no country has had Democracy implemented upon it by an outside power and had that “puppet” Democracy been successful.

In conjunction, the case in Libya serves to bring about the question of exporting Democracy. The country has undergone, and continues to do so, a civil war which has resulted in a power vacuum after the evacuation of Qaddafi and his family.  With countries such as France and Britain mainly responsible for foreign aid, both militarily and financially, these two powerful democracies have special interested in Libya and they will be looking for “dividends” for their efforts.  France and Britain were the first governments to launch military operations after the United Nations Security Council passed the resolution imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.  For these reasons, France and Britain will expect to gain greater influence over the new governing system.  So, following the reasoning of Selectorate Theory, Britain and France will seek to profit from their involvement in Libya and this profit must reflect the values of their people, the winning coalition.  As an oil-rich country, Libya has always attracted the attention of the European powers.  President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron will ensure that such a prize is distributed to them, hence their trip to Tripoli this past week.

With France and Britain struggling under fiscal instability, oil and its availability will be instrumental for both countries.  Both major European powers will have to ensure that the government to be constructed in Libya, by a supposed election hosted by the National Transitional Council, will allow for Western presence, special treatment, or all out ownership of the oil fields (or some partition of those fields).  Therefore, Britain and France will have to become much more involved in Libya to secure these assets.  Admittedly, the countries may not have to go so far as to enforce a European Democracy to appease the winning coalition of their countries, but they will have to ensure their access to the oil.

“These groups do not recognize an authority or any control.  These are areas which suffered a lot during the last few months of the regime, and now they think that whatever they do is justified.” – Anonymous Commander in Tripoli

Furthermore, for such a government to successfully exist and last into the future, it will also have to reflect the values of its own people.  Sadly, this is not straight forward for Libya, as dissent has already begun to emerge among the rebels.  Less than a month after the rebels captured Tripoli, revolutionary militia groups have begun sweeping up any weapons they can find.  Some of these groups barely recognize the authority of the new civilian government and rivalries are already surfacing.  Tensions have emerged between the council and other bodies in the new Libya, including militias, Islamist and regional representatives.  These disparate factions have various facets that range from pro-west or anti-west, secular or anti-secular.  To bind these various bodies under one umbrella government will provide a daunting challenge and will also play an important role in the future of the foreign powers.  Policies concerning future dealings with Western forces can be the spark to rip apart the rebel faction.  Nevertheless, the decisions to be made by the NTC and NTC leader Kibril will determine the future of Libya and their involvement in Western affairs.

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One response to “Libya: Export Democracy?

  1. Pingback: Iraq: Political Crisis (Export Democracy?) | Year of 1989

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