Strength and opportunity of the Libyan statehoodTill the beginning of the ‘Arab Spring’, Libya was considered one of the most sustainable states in the Arab world. Neither recurrent military conflicts (with Chad in 1972-1987, with Egypt in 1977), nor permanent tension in the region (according to the Index of Major Episodes of Political Violence developed by Center for Systemic Peace, in 1952-2012 an average indicator of internal and inter-state conflicts in the region of Libya and neighboring states amounted to 14,2 episodes of political violence per year), nor the authoritarian regime, nor (in certain periods) international isolation and sanctions could damage this image of Libya.

This perception of Libya as a successful and accomplished state which had appeared during Muammar Gaddafi’s rule was built on the following pillars:

 - Long period of unchangeable rule (de facto from 1969 till 2011, i.e. almost 42 years, which is one of the longest results in the contemporary history of the Arab world);

- Relatively successful economic development (however, such comparison was made to the African states, as well as to the level of Libya’s development before the oil era);

- Capacity to withstand numerous external and internal attempts at changing the government;

- The developed ideology of the Libyan ‘own path’ with the attempts to export it to other countries.

However, the beginning of the ‘Arab Spring’ in Libya in January-February 2011 resulted in complete anarchy in the country in a few months. Currently, the united Libyan state ceased to exist, while its further perspectives are becoming vaguer. In March 2016, the U.S. General David Rodriguez summarized the current development of Libya as a ‘failed state’. He emphasized that even if there were favorable circumstances and wide international support, the country would have need no less than 10 years to stabilize the situation.

During the last ten years prior to the ‘Arab Spring’, in the Fragile State Index Libya has been among the countries with high risks (having from 12 to 15 points on the scale from ‘0’ to ‘25’), although in 2014 the Index’s experts described the Libyan conflict as recently finished. In 2014 the same experts pointed out to Libya as a failed state, i.e. as a state with no central government. On the other hand, the supporters of the toppled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi emphasize the fact that the fall of his regime was possible only due to the foreign intervention. Without this intervention, they argue, Gaddafi’s government would be capable to suppress the rebellion and re-establish its full control over the Libyan territory. 

Actually, from the point of view of the four main types of events typical for a failed state underlined in the research project Political Instability Task Force – revolutionary wars, ethnic wars, unfavorable regime changes, as well as genocide and politicide – Libya had a rather good image till 2011. However, the problem remains: to what extent was the Gaddafi’s regime really sustainable and was it vulnerable only to foreign interventions? To what extent was Libyan statehood sustainable, taking into consideration the fact that as a modern state it existed for less than 60 years (from 1952 to 2011) and was ruled by Colonel Gaddafi for almost 42 years?

 

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About the author:

Aliaksandr Filipau is the Director of the Institute of Extended Training and Further Education at the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts. He has PhD in Political Science from the Academy of Public Administration in Minsk. In 2009-2013, he worked as Senior Analyst at the Information-Analytical Center under the Administration of the President of Belarus. The areas of his research interests are public administration, international relations, Arabic and Middle Eastern studies, Belarusian public policy.