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.