September is Tripoli Fall
Will the fall of the Qaddafi regime usher in a more democratic form of government like the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989? Or will the Tripoli Fall look more like the Prague Spring of 1968 where democratic ideals were ultimately thwarted by a corrupt totalitarian regime?
The Egyptian revolution is still uncertain, and the Army is anxious to hand off their presidential power (having learned from the 6 Day War in 1967 that they get distracted when they are running the country), but elections have again been delayed.
A similar opportunity arose for the east European countries breaking from the Soviet block in 1989 and 1991. At that time, the debate focused on which style of industrialized democracy they might mimic: the Scandinavian socialist flavor of capitalism or the US style. Many of these countries opted to model the US business style and dramatically shrink their social services systems. Sometimes these trends reversed themselves as these countries were “normalized” in the European Union enlargement process in the early 2000’s.
Libya could mimic Norway or Denmark, both countries with tiny national populations, excellent public services systems, healthy economies, and largely happy people. (Please notice that I did not select Finland.) But Libya is more likely to be enchanted with a US style of political economy, which might well provide wealth concentrations similar to the ones they have now. In the Slavic countries that chose the US system, there were many who had been held back in the previous regime who were able to step forward and assume leadership roles and many of the old guard did stay on in military or industrial leadership roles.
There is no future of Libya without critical negotiations with capable oil giants. Libya has an excellent starting position. Unfortunately, these oil companies have done this before– it’s a simple matter to transfer payments from one regime’s account to another.
What role will social media have in the creation of a new democratic government in Libya? If we are brilliant, we will create irresistible tools for designing constitutions or, better yet, social agreements. Imagine if some of the endless frivolous energy that goes into Facebook could go into self reflective government designing. There could be voting contests where people use social networking systems to evaluate and promote proposed democratic systems.
Or is this technology just what the West sees when it reports on this and other revolutions? Admittedly, it’s novel, but probably very few people are using the internet in Libya now.