People throughout the world are looking to events unfolding in Libya with considerable concern, grave wonderment, and at times, a lack of comprehension. Some of the most pressing questions for those watching the Libyan situation include: why has the opposition allowed the revolt to transform into an armed insurrection after it began as a non-violent protest movement? Perhaps more importantly, how is it that the Libyan regime has managed to survive so long in the face of a revolt which took in, at the beginning, the heart of the capital, Tripoli?
Answering questions about the situation in Libya is never going to be easy, especially given the power of the media, both international and local, to distort facts on the ground, and peddle misleading terminology. They sometimes use terms like "tribe" and "clan," which have, sadly, found their way into the thinking of the revolutionaries themselves, and have come to represent units of political organization. Nonetheless, it is important to keep in mind three factors which distinguish Libya from other Arab countries, including the scenes of revolution, and which have made the process of understanding the war there more difficult:
- The first factor is Libya's prominent role both regionally and on the wider world stage. Being an oil exporting power, Libya has been able to become a net importer of expatriate labor, deepening ties between Libya and many other states. This strong economic image concealed several internal problems Libyan society suffered from; this position has also attenuated the severity of Libya's bad relations with the outside world, which were born of Qaddafi's provocative attitudes and reactions to world events.
- Qaddafi's personality is in and of itself a factor in the Libyan question. His character was influenced not only by the political history of Libya and his own Bedouin lineage, but also the massive fortune he has accumulated while in power. His control over this vast wealth and his populist, primordial ideology has allowed Qaddafi to present Libya to the world as having no problems besides those of foreign meddling and imperialist attempts to control Libya's fortunes. Qaddafi, who has gone through a lot of trouble to remain in power, has thus become a by-word for all of the social complexities of his country.
- Then, of course, there is the question on the internal workings of Libyan society. Analysts and observers have little to go on to form their opinions and understanding of Libya.
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