Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Is democracy possible?

The pounding by Western forces of Muammar Gadda­fi’s troops has just started, so, hope­fully, by the time this is published Libya will be rid of him and his family’s deathly grip.
I don’t support any war or, in an ideal world, any intervention in someone else’s internal affairs. But this is hardly an ideal world and, in this case, I would have loved to have seen Malta take a proper stand in the military build-up and not sit on our, oh so comfortable, fence.
In the military intervention what terrifies me most is the huge clumsy boot of the US. When the Americans get involved they are like a bungling giant in a small shop which has problems with some thieving, violent neighbours. The giant might mean well and might seem like a saviour and said giant will be a guarantor for those horrid neighbours to be subdued into peace.
But the giant’s bulk causes nearly as much mayhem or harm in the shop as the previous neighbourly threat. And the giant then starts asking to organise the shop to fit him and his bulk and, all of a sudden, he is more a hulk of terror himself. Now less of a fighter but more of a suave man in a suit, he starts buying stuff from the shop at cut prices and starts demanding all sorts of strange deals to accommodate his friends and relatives who are far from the shop he initially saved.
I know the situation in countries is a tad different. I know the Libyan population, who rose against the oppressing Gaddafi regime, are hardly going to worry about what the Yanks will bring with them besides liberation from the tyrant. They just want to rid themselves of the ghoul of Tripoli, the scourge of liberty. So, on with the pounding if a pounding is what is needed.
The US only went in at the instigation of the UN and, most surprisingly, of the Arab League. The latter are already, at the time of writing, having second thoughts. Although, as I have already mentioned, I am usually against all forms of aggression, I believe the attacks against Col Gaddafi and his troops are more than justified. In fact, I think the world took too long to get involved and so let too much blood be shed unnecessarily. But I do hope the way in is as easy as the way out.
I hope the US and the other enforcers of the no-fly zone will make a quick exit out of Libya. However, these things don’t happen so easily and the post-Gaddafi process of reconstruction and regeneration will hardly be an easy ride.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is, was, or could have been the apparent heir to Col Gaddafi’s top post, which, in a further twist in that twisted family and the way of running (or is that ruining?) the country, was not a proper and real post at all. Col Gaddafi had no official status. In fact, he once said he could not resign as he had nothing to resign from.
However, Saif and the Colonel, both virtually unemployed, still decide they can call most shots in what happens in that country – even ordering their fellow Libyans shot. Anyway, I digress. Said heir apparent to the most important but fictitious post of de facto leader/dictator in Libya, is aptly called Saif. Both in Libyan and in Maltese his name ominously means sword.
Until a few months ago, this Saif was the West’s hope for Libya. He seemed suave and the new face of Col Gaddafi. He had influential friends in various Western democracies and was educated and refined, unlike the uncouth father and some of his renegade brothers. And once, when Saif was interviewed by Sky News while the rebels were taking over most of Libya and were seemingly victorious, Saif said that, yes, he understood they had to introduce more democracy and more freedom.
To him and, unfortunately, to many people in the West when discussing undemocratic countries, democracy is understood as a gift to be given out to appease the populace. A lot of us seem to think we can invade a country, raze the wicked ruler to kingdom come and then install democracy in a few easy steps. Can it ever work that way? Has it ever worked that way? Isn’t democracy and the rule of law and freedom a bit more complicated than that? If a country has been misruled, its moral fibre ruined and the country has hardly ever had an independent judiciary and freedom of speech, how can one just wake up and impose such cherished but not easily attainable goals?
I do hope the Libyans have a peaceful future. How that future can easily be attained with a modicum of democracy is hard to envisage. I hope no giant outsider, however well meaning he may be, will try imposing his own brand of democracy. May the Libyan future be a rosy one, untainted by further bloodshed and tyranny.

This article first appeared in The Times March 23,2011

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