By David D. Kirkpatrick and Mona El-Naggar, New York Times,February 20, 2011
CAIRO — A five-day-old uprising in Libya took control of its second-largest city of Benghazi and spread for the first time to the capital of Tripoli late on Sunday as the heir-apparent son of its strongman, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, warned Libyans in a televised speech that their oil-rich country would fall into civil war and even renewed Western “colonization” if they threw off his father’s 40-year-long rule.
In a rambling, disjointed address delivered about 1 a.m. on Monday, the son, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, played down the uprising sweeping the country, which witnesses and rights activists say has left more than 200 people dead and hundreds wounded from gunfire by security forces. He repeated several times that “Libya is not Tunisia or Egypt” — the neighbors to the east and west that both overthrew their veteran autocrats in the space of the last six weeks.
Threatening to burn the nation's oil supply in an act of deterrence to the protesters, as some reports indicate the Libyan dictator's son did, is not going to solve the underlying political, social, economic and cultural divide that exists in Libya, just as it would not do in any of the other countries where uprisings have turned the political tables upside down in the Middle East.
With both Libya and Iran now experiencing their streets filled with activists/protesters who have become emboldened by the success of their counterparts in other Middle Eastern countries, the political genie of some form of "people-power" is out of the proverbial bottle and will not be put back in with a forced cork, no matter the size or the virulence of the force of dictatorship. However, for the rest of the world to think or to believe or even to imagine that the following days and months will bring an orderly transformation into a western style democracy is "dreaming in technicolour".
We are only just beginning to contemplate the many ripples and potential tidal waves of unloosed political power, and some of that newly-unleashed power will find weapons, both among the protesters and among those attempting to retain their power....and most of those weapons will bear U.S. production and sales marks.
The U.S. has for too long, been the prime generator of weapons both for consumer consumption by their people and for wider distribution on the world markets, both above the table, and under the table. In fact, the U.S. and the rest of the western community of nations may be coming to terms with a history of selling those weapons that will haunt geopolitics for the next decade or two, if not longer.
There will be transitional governments that do not meet the expectations of their political master, the protesters, and those protesters will up the ante by willingly committing their lives to the cause of their personal, communal and national liberation, and guns or weapons of some kind will become an additional arrow in their quivver. And the military in whose hands the provisional, transitional government has been entrusted, will strike back, partly in frustration and partly because of a lack of both experience in dealing with such uprisings and a lack of imagination and sensitivity to the complexity of their huge task and responsibility.
So keep watching, listening and look for signs that the international community is actively monitoring and guiding this shift of power from the palaces of the plutocrats to the hovels of the humble. It will not glide easily as if through an antomatic transmission. And there will be many different forces attempting to derail its orderly transference.