The fate of Tripoli and the democratic dream for Libya

Lydia Sizer
Content Type
Journal Article
Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
Issue Number
Publication Date
The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
On March 17th, 2011, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice wore green for St. Patrick’s Day as she took her seat at the circular Security Council conference table at the UN headquarters in New York. In Libya, the color green is associated not with St. Patrick, but the misfortune-bringing dictator, Muammar al-Qaddhafi. Ambassador Rice, along with the other representatives of the Security Council, gathered in New York that day to consider a response to Qaddhafi’s repression of anti-regime protesters. They voted unanimously in favor of a no-fly zone over Libya to protect the protestors, supporting a revolution that ultimately led to the dictator’s overthrow and an opportunity for democratic transition. As artillery fire maims the outskirts of Tripoli and rival militias engage in indiscriminate violence that ensnares civilians and trapped refugees, the chances of a democratic future for Libya are fading. Yet, this painful moment in Libya’s history also presents a rare opportunity to harness greater international attention to empower moderate voices and advance a vision for Libya that overcomes division, ensures long-term stability, and weakens the threats of resurgent authoritarianism and transnational terrorism.
Terrorism, Democracy, Refugees, Arab Spring, Conflict
Political Geography
Libya, North Africa, North America, United States of America