This is my third attempt to draft a piece on the recent break through in Tripoli by the National Transitional Council. It felt wrong to publish the first draft on Sunday evening when so much was changing so quickly. Yesterday, the second attempt looked too far ahead, but I may well post it when the final step forward is made by the NTC in Libya. This could be in the next few hours, days, weeks, or even months.
Over the past one hundred and eighty-nine days, the world has watched as the people of Libya have been bringing down the corrupt dictator they have lived under for more than forty years. It has taken much longer than the uprisings of Tunisia and Egypt, and the rebels would not have been as successful in their progress without the support of NATO. Nevertheless, it has always been a matter of "when", not "if" the regime of Colonel Gaddafi would finally be brought to its knees. News outlets around the world are sensing that the moment is creeping ever closer. The excitement of a North African nation is building, as the democratic dreams of millions are beginning to look like more of a reality. The end of the Libyan Civil War will stop months of brutal combat, and start a revolution.
However, what will mark the end of this episode of the so-called "Arab Spring"? It is easy to think that this war will end when the fighting stops, but unrest is bound to be embedded in a country which currently lacks consistent stability. Libya will have to move forward, with any degree of social turmoil, and deal with it along the way. As the battle for Tripoli rages on, a simplistic view of power siezing is the suggestion that every nook and cranny in each village and town needs to support the National Transitional Council as a legitimate source of authority before it can take control. Regrettably, this is simply unfeasable; just ask the Conservatives how many seats they have won in Central Scotland recently. No single governing body can gain the support of the seven million people that occupy Libya. This is something that the old Libyan regime presumably know too well, and the country's people will no doubt discover when turning the page of their history book to the "democracy" chapter. The most theatrical potential conclusion of the battle for authority is undoubtedly the capturing of Colonel Gaddafi. If a picture is worth a thousand words, live streaming footage of the Libyan leader in handcuffs would be worth millions to news channels worldwide. Gaddafi is the one figurehead that symbolises the regime that his country has endured for almost half a century. For many, the only way that Lybia can have a fresh start with a new government and a new administration system is to show that the old has been dealt with and brought to justice. Gaddafi represents the corruption and cruelty that the Libyan people have been subjected to for so long, and whether found dead or brought to the Hague for prosecution, he is the key for the true step forward that is currently so desperately sought after.
Whatever the endpoint is, it has to be only a small step away from democracy, not a giant, irrational leap of faith. The war of recent months has been hard, but the looming revolution brings different, and much more complex challenges. Firing machine guns and dropping bombs won't rewrite a nation's constitution. Granted, the fighting we have been watching this year in North Africa has paved the bumpy road towards this incredible opportunity, but when pen hits paper, only a great deal of consideration, reflection and fairness will write a future for Libya that stand the country in good stead. Before any other thought crosses their minds, the authors at the National Transitional Council obviously need to consider what is best in the long run for their country. Short term solutions may ensure the popularity of the NTC doesn't dwindle, but they won't produce the strong constitution that Libya needs. The creators of the new constitution need to reflect over their nation's history, and ensure that the future they build for their state is as unparallel as possible with the past four decades. This suggestion may seem pointlessly blantant, but it is fundamental for the success of the transition from dictatorship to democracy. Thirdly, the new constitution needs to consider every single man, woman and child of all ethnicities, ages, cultures and locations within Libya. Fairness and equality is vital, and although it is virtually impossible to please everyone, the needs of each individual must be recognised.
No one seems to know when the battle for Libya will cease, because noone seems to know what the endpoint is. The general goals of democracy and freedom from oppression are blindingly clear, but specific, physical ambitions vary with opinion. Whatever will end the battle, and whenever it occurs, the members of the old regime must know by now that their hours are numbed. Gaddafi will fall, but when this happens, Libya is only half way towards its dream of liberty. The tasks that lie ahead for the NTC are colossal, and for the first time in their uprising, will not be made any easier by international assistance. NATO may be able to help with combat, but it cannot push Libya in the right constitutional direction. The country will soon be on the right track, but getting the train moving is a whole different ball game.