Muammar al-Qaddafi in extremis
Libya is the worst-case scenario for the Arab revolts.
Ten days later the world isn't focused on Cairo any more. On February 26 military police brutally attacked protesters in Tahrir Square and in front of the Parliament, a sign the old order and means of repression are not gone. Not that all hope is lost: slowly, steps are being taken to move toward a new democratic government. And as for the wave of revolutionary fervor, that continues throughout the Arab world. On Friday Iraqis staged their own "Day of Rage" and the biggest oil refinery was shut down. Additional tribal leaders joined the opposition in Yemen and it's looking more and more as if Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen will have to step down, not wait till 2013, his Mubarak-like initial offer. Revolt is strong in Bahrain too. A Shiite leader returned from exile to Manama and thousands marched to call for the PM's removal. Demonstrations were weaker in Algeria and Tunisia, but they happened.
All the attention of course is on Libya. This is the worst-case scenario for the Arab revolts. A mad dog leader (Reagan's words), isolated, eccentric, and deranged, has made the country an empty shell. The small population is scattered into disconnected tribes. Qaddafi and his No. 1 son Saif al-Din are pledged to fight to the end. Only Libya's oil riches may protect the country from future chaos. If oil income is distributed among the population, that may foster domestic tranquility (which happens in the princedoms and makes them more secure against revolt). But Libya's revolution can't have been as planned and coordinated as those of Tunisia and Egypt. It's more a spontaneous impulse, inspired by news of the Arab world. One can only hope that the revolutionary spirit and the Arab connectedness symbolized by Al Jazeera will somehow also inspire Libya to rebuild itself and avoid the truly worst-case scenario of descending into another Afghanistan.
There is no semblance of decency in Qaddafi. He ordered his own air force to strafe demonstrators, and is hiring outsiders to kill his own people.
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