The upheaval in Libya was created by independent town councils, its multitudinous militias, the bloodshed produced by contests over land rights and smuggling routes, and the fights between tribes and ethnicities. Will it recede once a democratic polity sinks roots and establishes institutions that resolve societal disputes through bargaining, compromise and cooptation? Or will these problems prove so potent that they eventually deform the nascent system, creating disunity and paralysis? It’s impossible to say with any certainty. But this much is certain: Libya’s future depends on which of these patterns prevail.
Rajan Menon is Monroe J. Rathbone Professor of International Relations at Lehigh University. Starting in August, he will be the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of Political Science at the City College of New York/City University of New York.
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