Libya: history of a failed revolution 1969 – 2011


Professor Bichara Khader
CERMAC, Université Catholique de Louvain



In light of the geography, Libya is a vast territory, more than three times that f France. But its population is only the 10th of that of France with a little more than 6.2 million people. This is understandable when we know that the desert covers almost 98% of the territory. Ungrateful to the surface, the liquid in the basement, the Libyan desert conceals considerable oil and gas resources. Oil and gas are also virtually the only exportable resources. With nearly 2 million barrels extracted per day, and nearly 3.5 billion m3 of natural gas per day, energy revenues of Libya between 25 and 35 billion dollars, making it one of the richest countries of Africa, if not the richest, naturally assuming that the highly questionable criterion of income per capita, a criterion to measure the wealth of a country.

With such lavish incomes, Libya could become a major business center, even a financial hub in the Maghreb. This could also help eradicate poverty and illiteracy, provide decent housing for all Libyans, improve infrastructure and provide employment to all young Libyans. Despite significant inroads on the housing and education fronts, youth unemployment figures are close to 25%, worrying to say the least, while the country imports more than three quarters of its food and almost all industrial products including its needs.

So there is a disturbing gap between resources and performance. To understand this, I develop two hypotheses: the first relates to the history of Libya, especially over the past 4 decades and the nature of its political system; the second relates to additional investments in the Libyan leader’s external domains (Arab, Maghreb and Africa) rather than on the internal front. Let’s start with some key dates on the recent history of Libya.


I. Brief historical background

Submitted to Ottoman rule until the early 20th century, Libya sees itself coveted by Italy, which begins the conquest of Tripoli and Cyrenaica by September 1911. The conquest is not without opposition: the resistance, organised by the Senoussi Brotherhood, is strong. After the First World War, the Italian Socialist government gave a semblance of autonomy to the conquered territories; Idriss Al-Senoussi was even placed in charge of Cyrenaica, before the Italians came back on their commitments, cancelled the status of autonomy and forced Al-Senoussi out of Egypt.

Mussolini came to power in 1922, resumed hostilities causing a new nationalist wave in which Omar Al-Mukhtar stuck out as an emblematic figure of the Libyan resistance. In 1934, Mussolini reunified the provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, to which he connected the Fezzan. Libya had become an Italian colony: well before 1940, nearly 120,000 Italian settlers live in Libya. Idriss Al-Senoussi organised the resistance from his Egyptian refuge and regroups fighters. Italy crumbles; the British occupy Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, while France liberates the Fezzan.

Later, Libya became independent on 24th of December 1951 and Idriss Al-Senoussi was proclaimed King. He developed pro-Western policies and agrees to the installation in his country of British and American military bases.

In 1952, the Egyptian monarchy was swept away by a coup of the Free Officers. Nasser is weary of Libya installed in the camp of those who seek its public obloquy. Relations between pro-Soviet Egypt and the pro-Western Senoussi monarchy were all but good. But Nasser had at the time other issues to handle and thus left Libya sort itself out. But his example is school.

On 1 September 1969, a young Libyan colonel, Mu’ammar Gaddafi overthrew the monarchy and took control of the country. At the time, the Libyan population would not have exceeded 1.5million inhabitants. The new Libyan leader requested the closure of foreign military bases, nationalized banks, he confiscated the properties of Italian settlers, and he formed a single party: the Arab Socialist Party, and enrolled in an alliance with the Soviet Union.

One year after the takeover by Gaddafi, Nasser died suddenly. As the self-proclaimed spiritual heir of Nasser, Gaddafi began to dream of a role commensurate with his ambitions. But he soon became disillusioned because one cannot become leader of the Arab World simply haranguing crowds. In 1975, his regime became more radical. Gaddafi then published his Green Book, where he addresses the question of power and democracy. In 1976, he proclaimed “people’s power” and established on March 2nd 1977, the popular and socialist Jamahiriya, a system of so-called “direct democracy” with revolutionary popular committees. Later, as of 1998, these popular committees were replaced by popular and social commandments, whose main function was to create a space for dialogue between Gaddafi and the tribes, the foundation of his regime.

The anti-American rhetoric of the Libyan leader became more virulent, but the Soviet Union remained wary of his pranks and his mood U-turns. In 1985, the USSR refused to sign a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, anxious not to become embroiled in an escalation of anti-Americanism that could result in an unwanted conflict. It is this Soviet distancing that probably prompted the Americans to launch, on the night of 15th April 1986, a raid on Tripoli and Benghazi. Gaddafi’s adopted daughter was killed, while he survived, unharmed, but spiteful and vindictive.

Two years later, two attacks were perpetrated against a unit of the TWA in December 1988 and an Air France plane in September 1989. Was there a causal relationship to the American raid on Tripoli and Benghazi? Libya has always denied these accusations. Nevertheless, the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Libya in 1992 and 1993, and requested the Libyan leaders to deliver to Scottish authorities the two agents suspected of having carried out the Lockerbie bombing. Gaddafi cooperated and delivered the two Libyan agents. He even agreed to offer 1 billion dollars to compensate the victims’ families, which suggests recognition of Libyan responsibility in these attacks.

In July 1999, the UN lifts its sanctions against Libya. Relations with Western countries are gradually normalized: investments flow into Libya. Trade takes off. Once considered a rogue state, Libya has been rehabilitated and has even been raised to the rank of friendly state.

Is Gaddafi’s metamorphosis miraculous? At first sight, it may surprise. In reality, it is the result of a simple geopolitical calculation: with the Cold War is over, the US reigns is masterly fashion, Libya does not stand its ground and the American neoconservatives want its skin. It is, in sum, the conclusion reached by the Libyan president. In other words, Gaddafi has simply applied the Arab proverb: “the hand that you cannot cut, kiss it”.

But the danger is not completely unfounded. After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Gaddafi puts an end to his weapons of mass destruction programme, multiplying tokens of goodwill. This earns him a “good report” from Washington. On December 19th 2003, the White House declared: “Libya has taken an important step and it follows that it has begun to do what it takes to join the international community”. Thus, very cleverly, more by guile than by conviction, Gaddafi has avoided the fate that Saddam Hussein faced; he is even cited as an example of political realism.

Gaddafi’s reconciliation with the West has allowed loosen the grip on Libya, save his regime, or even give it some influence over his African peers. He, who was not even a decade ago booed, harassed, vilified, called a “mad dog” of “mad Libya”, was transformed in a respectable man that one can invite and cajole, in pardoning his pranks and his whims. Oil and gas are worth a few false bows.


II. Libya in the Maghreb and Africa

From Libya always comes something new. It was the Greek philosopher Aristotle who first made this geopolitical discovery in the fourth century BCE. In Libya, he doubtless meant Africa. In fact, the sentence was taken up and revised in Latin by Pline the Elder who wrote: “Ex Africa simper aliquid novi”: “From Africa, always something new”.

So what is new in Libya’s Maghrebi and African geopolitics?

Libyan policy towards other countries of the Maghreb has evolved in an up and down fashion, with reconciliation periods up to the signing of ephemeral unions, followed by periods of extreme tension often verging armed conflict, then by détente.

Three years after the Libyan revolution, Gaddafi went to Tunis in December 1972 where he delivered an impassioned plea for a union between Libya and Tunisia. Initially, Bourguiba turned a deaf ear. Gaddafi did not admit defeat and returned to the charge in 1974: a treaty was signed between the two countries in Djerba in January of that year, establishing the “Islamic Arab Republic”. Hours after the announcement, the Treaty was terminated by the Tunisian Prime Minister, Nouira, who had hurriedly returned from a trip abroad.

Very quickly, the relationship between the two countries escalated and they both quickly got embroiled in a dispute over the delimitation of the Continental Plateau in the Gulf of Gabers, particularly rich in oil and natural gas. In 1980, both countries were on the brink of armed conflict. Bourguiba turned to Algeria and signed with President Chadli on March 19th 1983 a Treaty of Fraternity and Concord. Mauritania acceded on December 13th 1983, but the application for membership of Libya remained frozen because of its border dispute with Tunisia.

Gaddafi turned to Morocco, where he was on an official visit in July 1983. Increasing contacts with the Moroccan kingdom culminated in the signing, in Oujda on August 13th 1984, an “Arab-African Union”. Polarization within the Maghreb was now clear. But relations remained very volatile, determined more by the contingencies of the moment than by a long-term vision. Moreover, the Arab-African Union did not withstand the first storm, caused by the meeting in Ifrane in August 1985 between King Hassan II and the Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

With Tunisia, relations deteriorated: by 1985, they were downright broken. The seizure of power in Tunisia by Ben Ali, on November 7th 1987, allowed the atmosphere to settle. Relations were restored in 1987 and, a year later in 1988, a settlement on the Gulf of Gabes was found for the joint exploitation of oil resources of the Continental Plateau.

After the reconciliation between Morocco and Mauritania in 1985, the meeting between King Hassan II and President Chadli in May 1987, the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries on May 16th 1988, the climate was conducive to resumption of dialogue on a possible Arab Maghreb Union. The step is finally taken on February 17th 1989.

But the atmosphere soon darkened: the different positioning of the Maghreb countries concerning the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the Lockerbie case and the embargo imposed on Libya, the Algerian crisis after 1992 and the closure of borders between Algeria and Morocco, the Maghrebi gear was badly affected. In the Mashrek, the situation was no better. Divisions grew everywhere in a context of repeated economic crises. The Maghreb countries strengthened their Central European roots, participating in the NATO-Mediterranean dialogue (launched in 1994, which Algeria later joined), and in the Barcelona Conference in 1995. Gaddafi was isolated by the embargo: everybody turned their backs on him. It is in this isolated context that he rediscovered his new African vocation.

Very early on, soon after the coup of 1969, Gaddafi got involved in the internal conflict in Chad by supporting rebel factions who contest the authority of the Chadian president.  He took advantage of the inter-Chadian unrest to annex de facto the Aouzou band. Later, in 1980, he intervened directly in Chad to support the opponents who seize power. He even called for the unification of the two countries sparking a burst of Chadian nationalism. His ally, Goukouni, demanded the withdrawal of Libyant troops. After the debacle of the Libyan intervention in Uganda in 1979, the Libyan retreat of Chad stains Gaddafi’s prestige, who, as of the 1980s, as seen previously, reoriented his interest towards the Maghreb.

His disappointment with the Maghreb in the 1990s and its isolation in the Arab World, pushed him once again to seek a role in Africa. He increased aid, supported political oppositions and became a major rival of many African leaders. By the end of the 1990s, a concerted resistance is growing to oppose the extension of Libyan influence.

The lifting of the embargo on Libya since 1999, the decision to renounce to weapons of mass destruction and his return on the international scene give him a new respectability, which he uses to his advantage to present himself as an African sage, conscious of the fate of the continent and concerned with its development. So he began a series of tours in Africa, haranguing huge crowds (as in Conakry on June 25th 2007 or in Abidjan on June 27th of the same year). With relish, Gaddafi measures his popularity amongst young people and begins to dream that he is vested with the role of savior of Africa. In fact, he had become very successful in stigmatizing the colonial West, encouraging young Africans to remain in Africa, “their paradise”, as he says, and calling for the creation of a “United States of Africa”, for which he wished to be its first president. Thousands of hopefuls of the Africa of tomorrow quickly crystallized around his personality.

In February 2009, he was elected president of the African Union. Over the past year, he had tempered his speech, avoiding thundering declarations to avoid rising against him, quite unnecessarily, the other members of the African Union. But it is the project of a United States of Africa which obsesses him. But he has neither the time nor the resources to achieve this, and the resistance is strong. In 2010, Libya was forced to relinquish the presidency to Malawi. As for the extravagance of the Libyan leader, it creates a stir within the country where unemployment is in full swing. Thus the Libyan leader faces a dilemma: how to play the “King of the Africans” if the very foundations of his power in Libya start to crumble. The geopolitics of greatness has its limitations. The Brother Leader of the Great Jamahiriya has just made the sour experience.

But his most stinging defeat is felt in Libya itself, where the wind of revolt has blown, while also blowing on other Arab countries. As, unlike Ben Ali, his Tunisian neighbour, who has opted for exile, Gaddafi has held on to his position, and has not hesitated to expose his population to a deluge of bullets and fire. This is the epitome of the counter-paradigm of the happy revolution.


III. Libya: a counter-paradigm

Clearly, the democratic storm blowing across the Arab World has spared no state. Republics or monarchies, rich or poor, big or small, all Arab states are now confronted to angry people demanding freedom, dignity and employment. The movement seems unstoppable: nothing makes these states immune to shock, nothing amortizes the shock: not the noble genealogy of the descendants of the Prophet, nor the custody of the Holy Places of Islam, nor the defense of Sunnism, nor the “divine right” to which parent the faithful, nor the rhetoric of those who claim to be defenders of the great Arab causes (including the Palestinian cause), nor the oil income, fail to stop the challenge and stifle the cry of freedom.

The ills of Arab societies are structural and common: authoritarian systems, predatory regimes, drifts heritage, hypertrophy of security, cosmetic democracies and rigged elections, dysfunctional economies. Thus, no Arab state can claim to enjoy exceptional circumstances that would protect it. The fact remains that there are many differences between states, linked to historic routes, the distribution of population throughout the county, the rates of urbanization and education, the status of women, the role of the army, the homogeneity of society or, conversely, the existence of linguistic, ethnic, religious, regional or tribal fault lines. These differences color each revolution, giving them unique characters and determine the response of each system, the role of the army and security forces and, ultimately, the nature, pace and intensity of change.

Taking the case of Tunisia as the “paradigm” of peaceful revolution, led by educated and connected young people, in a supra-partisan mass movement and based on the brotherhood of a national army, then we must recognize that Libya offers the counter-example of this paradigm.

Let us broadly recall what Libya is all about. First, it is a vast geography: with over 1,700,000 km2, it is 3 times larger than France, of which 90% are deserts. Libya’s population just about reaches 6.7 million people (one tenth of the French population), but two thirds of the population is concentrated along the Mediterranean coastline that stretches over 1,350 kilometres with two major cities: Benghazi to the East and Tripoli to the West, respectively the main cities of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania. These are two of the three main regions of Libya, the third region being Fezzan in the centre of the country.

We are therefore in a country where regional identities are marked and coupled with traditional tribal structures. The fact that Benghazi is the stronghold of the « rebellion » in Libya is no coincidence since the Libyan East has already been the scene of major rebellions put down by wanton violence and which has never ceased to suffer the pangs of the Gaddafi regime’s repression, based mainly on the loyalty of Tripolitanian tribes and primarily of his own tribe. In addition to this territorial inscription of the revolt, there are also old rivalries between the tribes of eastern Libya, especially the Senussi and the Warfala, and those of the West, including Gaddafi’s own tribe: the Gaddafa. The tribes of the East and Fezzan have always felt aggrieved by an unequal distribution of oil profits and generally by the strong grasp of the Gaddafi and other western tribes into the workings of the « Libyan Jamahiriya », thus providing the leading officials of ministries and public sectors and building the bulk of the « elite troops » of the regime’s army.

To these distinctive features (large country, small population, urban concentration along the coast, regional polarization, tribal structures and marked inequality in the distribution of oil rent), one can add a turbulent political history marked, after 1945, by the occupation by Great Britain of the regions of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica and the occupation of Fezzan by French troops. After heated debates at the United Nations, Libya became independent on 24 December 1951 and Idriss el Senoussi is proclaimed king. The British and French armies withdrew, but Britain and the United States imposed upon the King the conservation of foreign military bases (Treaties of 1953 and 1954) and Libya thus openly entered the Western anti-Nasser camp.

The discovery of oil in 1959 increased the country’s financial resources and, in turn, its geopolitical importance for the West during the Cold War. On 1 September 1969, Gaddafi, then a young colonel, overthrew the Senoussi monarchy and moved to the head of the country. He quickly ordered the evacuation of foreign bases, nationalized banks, and expropriated the Italian colonists settled in the country between 1912 and 1939. In the nationalist ferment of the time, Gaddafi was considered a revolutionary leader and was welcomed by the Arabs as the heir of Nasser who had passed away in 1970.

But the Libyan leader quickly appeared unpredictable, showing signs of megalomania.  Hence, he carved himself a role fit for his ambitions: to become the Theoretician-Guide of the Third World. In 1975, he published the first volume of his « Green Book: solving the problem of democracy« . In 1976, he created the « popular committees », a form of « direct democracy » and proclaimed, in 1977, the People’s Socialist Jamahiriya of Libya (republic of the masses) of which he became not the president by the “Guide”.

Installed at the helm, the ebullient Gaddafi felt rapidly cramped in a country certainly rich but sparsely populated (2 million in 1970, 4 million in 1990 and 6.7 million in 2010). He intensified the number of ephemeral unions with Egypt (1972-1973), with Tunisia (1974), Morocco (1984). He engaged in military adventures in Africa (occupation of the Strip of Aouzou in 1973 and intervenes directly in Chad in 1980). Accused of supporting international terrorism, his residence in Tripoli was bombed by the Americans in 1986: one of Gaddafi’s adopted daughters was killed. In December 1988, an attack attributed to Gaddafi  ​​killed 259 workers in Lockerbie and another against an Air France plane over the Ténéré in September 1989 resulted in 170 dead. The sequence of events leaves no doubt as to the liability of Jamahiriya.

But Libya is a useful country, which the West does not want to alienate. The case of « attacks » was resolved at once through billions of dollars in compensation to the families of the victims. The Libyan regime sought to loosen the stranglehold that was beginning to choke it. The shift was dramatic: it took place after the attacks of September 11, 2001 and especially the U.S. war against Saddam Hussein in 2003. The calculation made by Gaddafi was rational: with the end of the Cold War and in a world dominated by the American superpower, it was useless, even suicidal, to swim against the tide and incur the wrath of America. In doing so, he thus applied to the letter the Arab proverb:  « the hand that you cannot cut, kiss it« .

This shift reinforced America’s policy towards Libya: President Bush quoted Gaddafi as an example of serious leadership who voluntarily gave up the idea of weapons of mass destruction, kept his distance in relation to terrorism and even formed a part of the anti-terrorist strategy. The Europeans were also full of praise. Not only did it open the Libyan market to their investments, but Gaddafi signed with France and other European states a number of juicy armaments contracts and committed, moreover, to lock its borders to stem illegal migration flows, thus playing to « the distant policeman » for the EU.

The reward was not long in coming: first considered a “rogue” state, Libya raised to the rank of “friendly” state, and even helpful friend. Once reviled as a terrorist leader, Gaddafi thus made his debut on the international stage, garnering numerous successes in Africa, where he became president of the African Union in 2009 and even began dreaming of becoming the King of the United States of Africa. In the West, he was being welcomed with open arms.

With a production of 1,600,000 barrels of oil per day, Libya is not an important producer (only 2% of world production), but its oil has a double bonus: quality (low sulphur) and proximity (Libya is very close to the Italian and European markets). This has enabled the regime to reap huge revenues, of which some feeds a sovereign fund present on all continents and another part which is held by Gaddafi, his family and his clan.

All this does not alter the internal workings of an atypical Libyan political system, in many ways reminiscent of North Korea, with its own oil. Indeed, power is dominated by the figure of the “Guide”, reigning unchallenged on a « Jamahiriya » marked by an astonishing political anomie, not recognizing professional organizations, independent unions, political parties, or parliament. Instead of all this, there are « popular committees« , excellently indoctrinated but bad managers. No wonder that this country, which had the resources to become the North African « tiger », remained more of a « flag planted on an oil well » that a successful economy, innovative and creator of quality jobs .

In addition to its dependence on oil exports, Libya is also characterised by an organized system of family and clan predation, turning the country into a form of private enterprise, almost a « family heritage », paving the way for a dynastic drift:  Gaddafi’s children thus sometimes ensure the close protection of their father and his regime, act as official spokesmen or can even hold the status of « crown prince ». The egomaniac and fond-of-greatness father has seemingly rubbed off on his children who display an arrogance and complacency out of the ordinary. We see them shake, in turn, the regime’s scarecrows, revive Al-Qaeda, open the migration  valve which then floods across Europe, crush the rebellion in bloody ways, flush out « traitors » and impose a « exemplary punishment » or even destabilize the entire Mediterranean.

It is against this regime, dominated by a clan and capped at its head by a whimsical and fanciful leader, that Libyans are rising against today. The fact that the Libyan revolt has occurred in March 2011 is no coincidence. The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions acted as spurs. If young Tunisians and Egyptians were able to defy the crackdown and unbolt two schemes praised across Europe for their strength, why should the Libyans stick to what they have and why should the quest for freedom stop at the border of Egypt and Tunisia?

Except that Libya is not Tunisia. The Libyan « rebels » knew they were exposing themselves to a terrible punishment, in line with the nature of the regime that dominates them. Nevertheless, it seems that there was a total lack of preparation. To confront the repression of Gaddafi’s forces, the « democratic uprising » has turned into an « armed insurrection without arms ». Benghazi quickly became the stronghold of the rebellion and its launch-pad. The eastern tribes sided with the « rebels ». But tribes in the West and centre of the country did the same. The army, crossed by the same regional and tribal fault lines, was soon cut in two: dissidents against the faithful. But the military arsenals and heavy weapons remained under regime control. The face-to-face is uneven:  insurgents without command, without means of communication and without adequate weapons, facing elite troops and mercenaries recruited and trained in a hurry.

The confrontation thus turned into a massacre: Gaddafi’s army did not hesitate to throw tanks against urban centres. This created a flow of international reaction: first, the Gulf Cooperation Council, then the League of Arab States called upon the UN to take responsibility and impose a no-fly zone and protect civilians. Once Arab support was guaranteed, Resolution 1973 of the UN Security Council on Libya was agreed despite five abstentions, by the BRIC states (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and, surprisingly, Germany.

No one will know for sure, but one can assume that Germany did not appreciate the French political hue and slide and the fact that Nicolas Sarkozy recognised the « legitimacy of the Libyan Transition Council » on the eve of an extraordinary European Council meeting. On can also speculate that Germany will have felt humiliated by the “tandem Sarkozy-Cameron”, which straddled a position without prior consultation with its European peers.

Many reasons can be put forth to try and explain the sudden proactive burst of the French. And some will not fail to point out that Sarkozy is currently more preoccupied with his re-election in 2012 and the breakthrough of Marie Le Pen, than the actual protection of the Libyan people. Others will expound on the date of the first French strikes, one day before the start of local elections on 20 March. Such suspicions would raise suspicion over the “cynicism” of the French position.

I consider to be more relevant the arguments that recall that the West has no business interfering in Arab affairs, that if Libya did not have oil the West would not have demonstrated the same willingness to intervene, that democracy is not exportable with missiles, that it may have been wiser to provide the Libyans with the means to defend  themselves, that it is for the Libyan people, with the help of their Arab brothers, « to make its revolution » and to face all the risks; as the Arab proverb says:  « who wants honey is exposed to bee stings”.

These arguments are valid and I admit that I am, myself, assailed by doubts. I fear that this latest Western intervention on Arab land (after Somalia and Iraq) appears in the collective unconscious as intolerable interference – under the label of humanitarian intervention – while Palestine continues to suffer the pangs of colonization and other Arab oil states – not very democratic – continue to enjoy the American umbrella.

The only difference in the case of Libya is that this is not a simple bee sting, but a massacre announced by a blood-thirsty despot who will seek to save his regime by any means available.

Now that operation « Dawn of the Odyssey » is in full action with a symbolic Arabic support, but under an explicit UN Security Council mandate, it has some pitfalls to avoid: being bogged down in a protracted conflict; becoming intoxicated by the « fireworks of missiles » that have rained on Libya; seeking to install in Libya a “pro-Western” government; replacing Gaddafi by a Libyan « Karzai »; transforming the name of the coalition from “international coalition” to « western coalition »; intervening on the ground; or offering the world the sad spectacle of discord between coalition countries. This, however, does not exclude the possibility of arming and advising the rebels, provided that they undertake not to use these weapons against « civilians » on the opposition’s side and that the rebels are not infiltrated by jihadist militants.

Caution is thus called for. Libya is not Iraq and the right to intervene should not become a preventive war. For now, the Security Council mandate of a no-fly zone must be respected by all. But everyone agrees to recognize the legitimacy of the Libyan people’s claims. At the same time, a key demand has been the removal of Gaddafi, or his trial. This is all very ambiguous. The Security Council does not call for a regime change, but its support for popular Libyan demands goes in this direction.

For my part, I believe it would be impossible to withdraw from Libya without Gaddafi’s departure. Any negotiations with him must focus on the conditions of his departure, not on those of a compromised outcome leaving him in power. The latter is not only inconceivable, it is also inappropriate. It would be an insult to the revolted Libyan people, a disavowal of the international community, and a bad message to other Arab peoples.

We knew what the Tunisian and Egyptian people wanted: their slogans were explicit and modern. We know roughly what is the program of the ‘National Transition Council’, what is its composition, what is its vision for Libya, how will it reconcile the Libyan people, avoid fragmentation of the country and establish a state worthy of this name with transparent institutions, economic governance, democracy that transcends the primordial  solidarity of regional or tribal type?

On all these issues, we remain in the dark. This has led some observers to talk of a « premature revolution » as the young rebels have become « insurgents and rebels, the “face-to-face” between the people and the regime has turned into a civil war. And, worsed of all, the ultimate objective is not guaranteed because, in the words of Raymond Aron: « It is men who make history, but they do not know the history they do«  (quoted by Alain Franchon, Strategic Review Strategy, Le Monde 2011).