Blog Reflection

Benjamin Batjer

June 30, 2017

CULF 3331.22

Libya Blog Reflection Paper

On the first day of class, I saw this project and immediately was worried. Walking into the class, I had absolutely no knowledge on the Middle East, and all the problems going on there. The only information I had on the Middle East came from sources like CNN, which really only covers terror threats over there. So I had zero knowledge or background information on the people and policies in the Middle East. For my research project, I decided to follow Libya, from the first days of the Arab Spring up until what is now a failed or failing state. I chose Libya because, out of all the places, I had heard the most about Libya.

For my first blog post, I wanted to start from the beginning. I chose to write about the start of the Arab Spring in Tunisia. I thought that if I wanted to focus on Libya, I should first start with where the unrest began. Specifically, I chose to focus on Mohammad Bouazizi. Bouazizi was a poor fruit vendor in Tunisia, who for years spoke of the rampant corruption in the Tunisian Government. He told stories about police coming to the market, where he was a vendor, and stealing his goods. The police took visible pleasure in stealing and harassing not just him, but all of the other vendors in the markets. They would often times fine him, and other vendors, amounts that would equal a month of pay. One day, Bouazizi told his uncle about the harassment he faced on a daily basis. His uncle then called the police chief to complain. On the morning of December 17, 2010, while on his way to the market to begin his days work, Bouazizi was stopped and humiliated by two police officers. This was arguably the spark that triggered the Revolution. When Mohammad returned to the market later on in the day, he told his fellow vendors that soon the world would know how bad Tunisians, under President Ben Ali, were treated. He was correct, as he would commit suicide by setting himself on fire and ultimately setting the Arab World on fire. This began the Arab Spring.

Bouazizi’s suicide was a symbol of frustration and desperation felt across the Arab world. Just one year after his suicide, three dictators had been removed from power and a fourth had transferred power to a deputy. From my blog, I found an article where Rami Khouri, an Arab commentator, said that this was when the world witnessed the birth of Arab politics, where people in the Arab world could voice their opinions and create change by voting. This leaves a giant legacy for Mohammad Bouazizi. He was the ultimate radical. He set himself on fire, because of a corrupt government that he had to witness everyday, in the name of protest. His self-mutilation was a huge symbol of the pain and suffering felt by millions across the Arab World. I think that these issues best tie into controversy on whether or not nations should be encouraged to promote democracy. He gave a voice to millions, and he sparked democratic movements throughout the Middle East.

My next blog focused on the “Day of Rage” in Libya. On February 17, 2011, in what protesters called the Day of Rage, Libyan protestors to the streets in defiance of brutal crackdowns. These protesters wanted one thing: to remove Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The protesters, which I found very interesting, used social media to organize these protests. This was the beginning of the Libyan Revolution, and again I believe this draws over the controversy regarding democracy. The people wanted a voice and democracy would have given them one. Now Libya is stuck in a Civil War, where there are multiple groups and militias all fighting for power. The second article for my second blog post was about the current Civil War, which began after Gaddafi was killed. Before reading these I really had no knowledge on the civil wars in Libya, or what the difference was between the First Civil War and the Second Civil War. And while I still didn’t have much knowledge after this blog post, I learned that the current civil war is militia versus militia. After all these years of fighting, I could only think to myself that they must find answers.

My third blog was about the death of Gaddafi. I found this blog to be very interesting, because while I had of course seen the videos of Gaddafi being killed, I really didn’t know how or why, and I don’t know if I can say that I now know why. This was probably my favorite post because of the second article that posed the question of whether or not Libya would be better off now, with Gaddafi still in power. My first article in this blog talked about the killing of Gaddafi. It described how he was pulled from a storm drain with a humiliating look on his face. The fighters surrounding him were yelling “God is great” and Gaddafi would soon meet his demise. This was a long fall from grace for a man who once referred to himself as the “King of Kings in Africa”.

The second article for this blog from the Washington Post asked the question, “Would Libya be better off with Gaddafi?”. It talked about the current state of affairs in Libya, a years long civil war, and how it might be different if he hadn’t been killed. While I do not believe that any part of Libya, or the world for that matter, would be better off with him still alive, I do agree with them saying that many Libyans would have preferred him to meet justice inside a court room. This could have done a number of things for Libya. First it would have allowed Libyans themselves to project to the world that they were better than Gaddafi. By killing him in the streets, are the Libyan people really any better than the man they wanted removed from power? The way they did it made them look not only barbaric, but also as murderers, just as he was. I think that if they were to have brought him to trial, it would have projected to the world that they were serious about real change. It may have also eased the transition, and not leave the country in a seven-year civil war. This topic ties directly into the controversy about international aid. The international community, led by the US, sent in forces to Libya to remove him from power. Was it warranted? I believe that yes it was, but that the US did not do it the way they should have.

My next blog was on the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi. This was an issue that completely flooded the US news organizations because US Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed. This attack was highly publicized and politicized in the US because of the response or lack thereof by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. On September 11, 2012, militants stormed the US embassy and within 15 minutes had made their way into the compound. 3 hours later, US Ambassador Stevens, and 2 US Navy Seals had been killed. For my reflection on this blog I talked about the lack of response by the US and why there wasn’t a stronger one. This was the first time a US Ambassador had been killed since 1979 and it probably shouldn’t of happened. There was a US Marines commander who had said that he and his men changed in and out of uniforms four times that night, but were never ordered to respond. This is a major problem as they may not have been able to save Chris Stevens life or the lives of the Navy Seals, it would have been a much better response than sitting back and blaming political parties.

My next blog focused on one of the first major battles and the start of the Second Libyan Civil War. General Khalifa Haftar announced that the GNC has been dissolved. He began creating his own militia with the support of many former Gaddafi loyalists. He then launched Operation Dignity in Benghazi, trying to drive out militants. He wanted to destroy the Libyan chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood. The point of this blog was to point out that there really isn’t a distinction between the first and second civil wars. The first was really just the opposition to Gaddafi, while the second is mainly about different groups and militias fighting for power. However, I believe the state is in anarchy and that isn’t going to change until certain groups give up and start working together. Democracy will probably not work in Libya, as there are too many groups with different beliefs, but in order to move forward they must find a way to work together.

My final blog, I looked at whether or not Libya is a failed state. The two articles I read both had the same theme, with the state that Libya is currently in, arguing whether or not Libya is a failed state comforts no one. There is political chaos, security problems, a lack of basic services for citizens, and energy shortages. This played into many of the controversies in the book. At this point, I don’t think it is worth discussing whether or not Libya should try to become a democracy. I believe there is too much chaos in the country for that to work. The country is filled with radicals who all want power, and that simply is not going to work in a democracy. It is also hard to solve their security issues due to all the different groups vying for control. This is always going to lead to violence, especially in a country where some of the groups who want to be in control may or may not be terrorists. The other thing is solving their energy issues. With all the fighting, Libya’s oil economy has hit the floor. I believe that if in some way, Libya can come together and unite they need to find and develop alternative sources of energy.

In my blog project, I came into knowing nothing and completely overwhelmed. I really had less than basic knowledge on the Middle East, and at first I was very hesitant to want to even learn about it. But after the first week or two, I realized I was just expanding my knowledge, both academically and culturally. I still do not have enough knowledge about the Middle East to sit down and have an in depth conversation with someone, but I did gain more basic knowledge and more importantly I expanded my curiosity on the entire Middle East. In my day to day life, I have begun actively looking into issues going on in the Middle East and the Arab World. Instead of only searching CNN for domestic breaking news, I’ve started googling issues in Syria and Afghanistan and other places. While I may not have turned in the most insightful essays, blogs, or tests, and even though I wasn’t the most actively engaged student in class, meaning I didn’t try to give my opinions, I came away from this class and this project wanting to learn more.

Blog Post #4: The Battle of Bani Walid

 

Battle of Bani Walid

After Gaddafi’s death, forces loyal the interim Government entered  Bani Walid, one of the last towns loyal to Mohammad Gaddafi. NTC military commanders say they were met with heavy resistance upon entering the city. At the time of this battle, another battle in Sirte is also raging on, while bulldozers have begun demolishing Tripoli.

Destruction of the Museum

A museum in Bani Walid was destroyed by fighters during the Battle for the city. The museum was once a major European tourist destination, but now it is in ruins. Abdel Nasser al-Rabasi,a candidate for parliament in Libya, said that such an act is unforgettable and unforgivable. Officials were hoping that the second election since the death of Gaddafi would help ease the tension in the region. The country needs authority to ease the chaos, but it is unlikely to happen.

Reflection:

I wish I would have paid more attention when these uprisings were happening, not only for the sake of the class, but for my own knowledge. Libya is now completely fractured, and I don’t believe any of that will fix itself anytime soon. There are simply too many groups fighting for control over the country. Going back to my last blog post, the death of Gaddafi very well could have been the end of modern day Libya. I don’t believe the country has a chance to ever completely regain control itself. And that spells disaster for the entire region, not just Libya.

Blog Post 8: Is Libya a Failed State?

Is Libya a Failed State?

Prior to his appointment in 2015, Kobler had top UN jobs in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo and came into his role in Libya with the goal of preventing the country becoming the next Syria.
Libyas problems are hard to belittle, facing rival governments, security issues, and energy shortages.
The argument about whether Libya is failed or simply failing is unlikely to comfort most in the country, as long as there is a shortage of basic services and political chaos.
Following a visit to Libya earlier this week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said his agency will increase its activity in response to the situation and called for refugees and asylum seekers being held in detention centers to be freed.
Libyas peace accord known as the Libyan Political Agreement , brokered by the UN and signed in Skhirat, Morrocco, in December 2015 has so far failed to solve the countrys political problems.

A Failed State in Waiting

Libyas transition has been bogged down by insecurity and chaos, suggesting the country is becoming a failed state six years after the Nato-backed uprising that ended Muammar Gaddafis rule.
The protagonists have not understood that no single ideological branch or political or tribal clan can govern the country on its own in the post-Gaddafi era, said Rachid Khechana, director of the Mediterranean Centre for Libyan Studies in Tunis.
Analysts remain sceptical over the prospects for Libya to avoid becoming a failed state.
Libyans must decide whether their country will become a new Somalia, or whether theyll make difficult choices to steer it in a different direction. Whether or not this state of suspended animation marks the beginning of Libya as a failed state depends primarily on its economic standing, she said.

Reflection:

With the turmoil in Libya, difficult decisions and even submissions must be made in order to keep the state from completely failing. None of the current agreements made since the death of Gaddafi have made any meaningful impact on the country. Tribes of clans, different ideological beliefs, or political branch are not able to make peace work in Libya, they will all be forced to work together for the sake of keeping Libya afloat. Each side seems to be full of Political Realists, meaning they think by projecting power, it will lead them to greater control over the country. The problem is, each of these groups is expecting the same thing, and unless each side is willing to give up some of their beliefs and work together, no one group will gain control. And the country will remain where it currently is.

Blog Post #7: Oil in Libya

Big Oil

If anyone wondered just how serious the turmoil was in Libya, this weeks attacks on its oil fields have likely erased those doubts, and left Western oil companies with big investments in the country wondering whether one of their more promising prospects in Africa is destined for a long and bitter war.
Before dawn on Wednesday in the countrys central coastal region, groups of armed fighters claiming allegiance to the Islamic State, or ISIS, stormed two oil facilities, each jointly operated with Libyan and Western oil companies: Mabruk, a joint venture with Total; and Bahi, partly operated by a U.S. consortium consisting of Marathon Oil, Hess, and Conoco Philips.
On Wednesday, Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libyas ambassador to the U.N., pleaded with the Security Council to lift the international arms embargo against his country, warning that unless Libya receives fresh weaponry, ISIS will continue to use the perilous power vacuum to expand its operations.
This is where these groups thrive, Ghellal says.With militia groups conducting regular incursions against oil terminals and pipelines over the past several months, Libya, a key Opec member, has seen its oil production plummet from around 1.6 million barrels a day in 2010, to around 750,000 barrels a day last November, down again to 325,000 barrels a day in January, and up to around 500,000 barrels or so this month, according to the NOCs estimates.
To gauge how risky non-oil investments in Libya are, consider the sobering experience of APR Energy, a Jacksonville Florida company specializing in fast-track power supply; the company trades on the London Stock Exchange, and until recently APR regarded Libya as a solid market for expansion.

How Oil is Threatening to Deepen the Divide

A power struggle for control of Libyas oil is threatening to deepen splits in the country and undermine the fragile authority of the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord, the GNA. The battle has forced the politically neutral chairman of the Libyan National Oil Corporation to warn the GNA that it has overstepped its authority both by closing the oil ministry and by trying to take over some of the NOCs role.
Sanalla had been acting as de facto oil minister; Serrajs closure of the department appears to bring part of the NOC under political control a move that risks opening the door further to corruption and revenues being siphoned off for private or political use. The NOC is one of the few functioning national institutions that has worked across a complex political divide including Serraj and the forces of Field-Marshal General Haftar, the leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army in the east.
Sanalla has been slowly increasing Libyan oil production, and persuading foreign oil companies from Russia, Italy and the UK to have the confidence that Libya is a country in which it will be safe to invest.

 

Reflection:

Libya is still is a deep state of turmoil. Their oil industry may be causing even more turmoil. It seems that even terror groups, such as ISIS, know what the power of oil is. In its simplest terms, oil provides money that funds not only the country of Libya, but also the militant groups vying for control. Attacks on oil fields in Libya, who is a key member of OPEC, have seen substantial decreases in their oil production. The Libyan ambassador to the UN has both warned and asked for help from the UN. He thinks that without new and fresh weapons, he wants the UN to end the arms embargo, ISIS and other militant groups will just gain more and more control. This would be a blow to a country who is trying to regain control over itself. Obviously, the militant groups are radicals. They want to gain control by imposing their will on the internationally recognized government of Libya, and they are willing to do whatever it takes. Some of the other players though, I would say are Political Liberals. They want help from MNCs and foreign governments, namely the UN, in order to act more like a “State” and secure economic stability.

Blog Post #6: Operation Dignity

Dignity

At the beginning of 2014, former General under Gaddafi, Khalifa Haftar, announced that the GNC had been dissolved. Three months later he created and built up his own militia, with support from many former Gadaffi loyalists. On May 16 he launched the Operation Dignity offensive in Benghazi, with the purpose of driving out Islamist Militants. He has said that the main objective is to destroy the Libyan chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

Operation Dignity battle was one of the first major battles of the Second Libyan Civil War, in May 2014. It was fought between the Islamic Fundamentalist group, the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, and Libyan Army. It began when Gen Haftars forces attacked different bases in Benghazi that were held by the terrorist group, Shura Council. It included an attack on the base that US Ambassador Chris Stevens was at.

 

Reflection:

There really may not be a complete distinction between the first Libyan Civil War and the Second, but this Battle was one of the first offenses of the Second. The whole Civil War is against rival groups wanting to take control of Libya, and there are simply too many groups with different views for this to smoothly end. The country is in a state of anarchy, and none of the groups are capable of running a country, in my opinion.

Blog Post #5: Attack on Benghazi

Benghazi Timeline

At the time this article was published, the world knew little about what happened in Benghazi the night of the attack on the US consulate. In what now looks like a pre planned attack, at 10PM on September 11, 2012, militants began firing at the US consulate building. Less than 15 minutes later, militants made their way into the compound. By midnight two former US Navy Seals, had been killed. At 1:15 am, US Ambassador Christopher Stephens arrived at a local Libyan hospital, where he died.

 

GOP Report on Benghazi

After a long two year investigation, one that has been very politicized regarding Hillarly Clintons role in the attacks, the GOP has released their findings. The report details why the US was in Libya at the time of the attack and the US response to the attack. One of the main finding is that the US considered deploying uniformed troops to the region but worried that this would cause even more turmoil in an already contentious region.

Reflection:

The attack on the US consulate in Benghazi was a highly publicized event. It marked the first time a US Ambassador had been killed since 1979. While I still don’t believe we know everything that happened that night, I find it hard to believe that there wasn’t an immediate response by the US government. One commander for the US marines said that he and his men changed in and out of their uniforms four times that night, yet no one was ever ordered to proceed. Why? It might not have saved those Americans lives, but it would of been a much better response to at least try than to sit back and play the blame game, which is exactly what US officials did.

Death of Gaddafi

His Final Moments

For a man who once described himself as the “King of the Kings in Africa”, Gaddafi’s final moments were humiliating. As he was pulled from a drain where he was captured, you can see the humiliation he faced. His reckoning had found him.The people who surrounded him, firing weapons in the air and shouting “God is great”, he was about to meet his end. This article suggests that Gaddafi should have met his end in Sirte, the city most closely associated with his dictatorial rule. Sirte is where Gaddafi created his second capital. As fighters broke through defenses, Gaddafi would soon be dead.

 

Would Libya be better off with Gaddafi?

An article from The Washington Post poses a question about whether or not the country of Libya, now entrenched in civil war, would be better off if Gaddafi was still alive. His death was humiliating and lacked any dignity, but many people suggest that is what he deserved. The Post says that his death was a landmark, but after three years of fighting, they don’t think it was a good landmark.  Fighting is split between regional militias, Arab nationalist, Islamists and more. An Irish journalist suggests that many Libyans would have rather seen him meet his justice inside a court room, and that that may have helped the transitional government, and not lead to the civil war that they are facing.

 

Reflection:

Gaddafi’s end was gruesome. I have seen the video multiple times, and although you don’t see the moment of his death, you see the humiliation he was in. I had never even heard of Gaddafi before the US and NATO  intervened in Libya, and they didn’t have the intention of him being killed. But as soon as he was killed, I began doing some light research on him, and saw all of the things he did to his own people. Honestly, when I saw the video after I read a little about him, I thought it would be a good thing for Libya, I don’t know if anyone thought that his death would lead to such volatility in the region. And I had never once considered whether or not it was the right thing to do. But the question posed by the Irish journalist is an intriguing one. How different would Libya be today? Would they still be at war with each other? I don’t know if anyone can really answer that question, but it is very interesting.

 

Blog #2: Day of Revolt: Starting the Libyan Civil War

“Day of Rage”

February 17, 2011, a day protesters have named the Day of Rage. Libyan Protesters took to the streets in defiance of crackdowns, seeking to oust Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and more than a dozen were killed. Opponents to the regime took to anonymous social media to encourage large scale uprising similar to the ones which had recently ousted Rulers in Tunisia and Egypt. There were major demonstrations in Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Darnah and Zintan. These protesters wanted a life out from under Gaddafi.

War in Libya

With different militias all vying for different parts of the country, Libya remains in Civil War. This article is from 2014 at the beginning of the Second Libyan Civil War, which happened after the toppling of Gaddafi. Militias have been skirmishing since Gadaffi was toppled, involving nationalists and Islamists.

Reflection: Before reading these two articles about Libya, I didn’t know much about the civil war there other than it began with opposition to Gadaffi. The current Civil War there, I have learned is really about which militia will have legitimate control over the country. I still have only basic level information about the country and the ongoing conflict, but Im curious to find out more. What I really want to get deeper into is the root causes of the violence there and how better planning from intervening countries might have impacted the outcome. Going on seven years at war with each other, they need to find answers.

Blog #1:Mohammad Bouazizi and the Start of the Arab Spring

 

Burning Fruit and the Resulting Revolutions

For years, Mohammad Bouazizi told stories of corruption at the fruit market, where police would come and take fruit without even thinking about paying for them. Police took visible pleasure in harassing these fruit vendors, often times fining them and stealing all of there products. On the morning of December 17, 2010, Bouazizi was making his way to the market so he could sell his fruits when two police officers stopped him and tried to take his fruit. One of the officers became upset about Mohammad’s uncle calling the police chief, who then called the officer and told her to let him pass. She went to the market later on that day and humiliated Mohammad; making him wear with shame. This was the beginning of the revolution. Bouazizi returned to the market later that day and told his fellow vendors that he would let the world know how unfairly Tunisians are treated, all because of President Ben Ali. Bouazizi would light himself on fire, committing suicide, a suicide which lit the whole Arab World on fire. This was the beginning of the Arab Spring.

A Fruit Sellers Legacy to the Arab World

Mohammad Bouazizi’s suicide was a symbol of the frustration and desperation felt by millions across the Arab World. One year after Mohammad’s death, three dictators were ousted from power while a fourth transferred power to a deputy. While revolutions and real change take time, Arab commentator Rami Khouri said we are witnessing the birth of Arab politics. For the first time, people in the Arab world are able to voice their opinions and create change by voting. In the first year after Mohammad’s suicide, the biggest political winners are the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet they face a substantial challenge: They have to maintain their popularity while meeting the demands of not only their supporters but the entire nation itself. However, their is also a brutal Regime in Syria that seems willing to do anything to tamp down revolutions. One year after Bouazizi set himself on fire, people in the Middle East and North Africa are not going to give up their fight for justice and dignity. One year after Bouazizi’s death, the Tunisian people are electing their first president and prime minister.

 

Reflection:

After previously knowing very little about the Arab uprisings or the Arab world at all, learning about the power one man had in creating change. Mohammad Bouazizi was the ultimate radical in my opinion, setting himself ablaze in the name of protest. Due to a grossly corrupt government led by Ben Ali, which focused more on foreign investment and political opposition than his people, Bouazizi took charge and led change. His suicide was a symbol of the pain inflicted on the people of not only Tunisia, but much of the Arab world. Protests began immediately in the region, and they spread like fire. I believe that Mohammad is possibly one of the most influential the world has seen in recent history, based on the tremendous size of the resulting uprisings.

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