The Economist on Libya

This week's Economist has an excellent leader on Libya and the whole question of whether Western engagement over the past decade was a mistake. An excerpt from the conclusion:

The lesson from the Arab awakening is an uplifting one. Hard-headed students of realpolitik like to think that only they see the world as it truly is, and that those who pursue human rights and democracy have their heads in the clouds. In their world, the Middle East was not ready for democracy, Arabs not interested in human rights, and the strongmen the only bulwark between the region and Islamic revolution. Yet after the wave of secular uprisings, it is the cynics who seem out of touch, and the idealists have turned out to be the realists.

Just occasionally, the power of ordinary people can overturn the certainties of the experts. That is why countries dealing with dictators should never confuse engagement with endorsement and why the West should press for human rights and democracy—even when it is inconvenient, as it is with China and Russia. Just ask those who have summoned up the courage to risk death for a cause on the streets of Tripoli.

Also see, if you have a subscription (or the print issue), the rest of their briefing on the regional unrest, including this report from Eastern Libya:

IN A parliament building that predates the Qaddafi regime, the founding fathers of a new Libya have gathered. In this Green Mountain town, perched above the coastal sand-flats, they plan to write a new constitution and restore civilian rule. A week after their uprising against 41 years of dictatorship, lawyers, doctors, tribal leaders, colonels, university professors and even Muammar Qaddafi’s justice minister are preparing for power. Inside and outside the assembly hall, crowds of men, women and children cheer and cry for their “monkey king” to leave.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.