Michael Totten

The Fracturing of Libya’s Rebels

Libya’s rebels (I think it’s almost, but not quite, time for us to stop calling them that) are now fighting amongst themselves. Mahmoud Jibril, head of the Transitional National Council and prime minister in all but name, is being denounced as an “extreme secularist” by Islamists.

Islamist radical Ali Salibi is accusing Jabril of trying to implement “a new era of tyranny and dictatorship.” Considering what happened in Libya this year to the last tyrant and dictator, these might be construed as fighting words. And Salibi’s Salafist ally Abdel-Hakim Belhaj is in charge of the rebel forces in Tripoli.

Political splintering was inevitable after Qaddafi’s regime fell. No country in the world can be politically unified without a totalitarian state imposing it through terror and violence. And tension between Islamists and secularists can’t be avoided in Libya any easier than it can anywhere else. The problem, of course, is that every Libyan faction across the political spectrum is well-armed and combat-experienced.

No one can know what will happen, but I’ll say this: Because Libya is getting a fresh start with a brand new government, the best possible outcome for Libyans is probably better than the best possible outcome for Egyptians who are still stuck with a calcified military dictatorship and an enormous reactionary Islamist movement. The worst possible outcome for Libyans, though, is significantly worse than the worst possible outcome for Egyptians.

Libya might be in great shape five years from now, but it might also turn into another Somalia.