After 42 years of rule by one indigenous nation (Gaddafi), personified in the dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi, the state of Libya is as of 20 October 2011 in the hands of a multinational directorate–the National Transitional Council (NTC). In the Gaddafi city of Sirte, Muammar Gaddafi was captured and executed by the Misrata Military Council. As I observed in an earlier posting, the many nations in Libya are potentially problematic if there is to be a newly reconstituted Libya as a state. Nations have formed states in the past and unless there is comity between the different nations that makes allowances for diverse cultural ways of life and ensures shared power, the state cannot be stabilized except by dictatorial force. That has been the pattern since the modern state became a standard political model in the 18th century.
When Yugoslavia was established in December 1918 it was formed in the post World War I world from the Croatian, Serbian, Montenegro, Kosovo, Slovene nations and ruled until his death in 1980 by Josip Broz Tito. Yugoslavia collapsed in 1991. It was a state formed from nations by agreement among World War I winning states at Versailles increasingly ruled by the power of one of the nations. The Republic of France was formed into a state from nations: Breton, Alsace, Occitane, Loraine, Savoy, Catalonia and others under the rule of a National Assembly. The Spanish Crown forced the Galecians, Eskudi, Catalans, Valencians, Extramadura, and the remaining elements of the Moorish occupation in Andalusia. Despite periods of dictatorship Spain eventually distributed political power among the nations in its parliament the Cortez.
In the early 1980s Vanuatu was formed as an independent state from many island nations. Papua New Guinea formed into an independent state from many nations. In the case of Vanuatu political power was distributed in the governing council between the nations. In Papua New Guinea such power was theoretically distributed among nations, but actually the process was faulty and that fact continues to hobble the country’s government.
South Sudan was formed as an independent state under the rule of many distinct and sometimes conflicting nations. Whether the governing body of this new state can maintain a fair distribution of power between the nations still stands as a major question.
Libya is now faced with forming a government with a fair distribution of power between the various nations. The Gaddafi nation itself may become a thorn that undermines comity. Not only that nation but other nations in Libya remain interested in their share of power. The first issue will be how to distribute power, but that will be driven by the question of which nation will benefit from the wealth derived from oil.
When nations form states the centralized power vested in the state often ends up conflicting with the more localize and distributed power exercised by the various nations. The apparent “unruly” behavior of “tribalism” western European commentators will point will simply reflect the limited knowledge of such commentators. Nations are political realities that will continue to influence and in the case of Libya determine the political existence and future of many of the world’s states. If they are engaged in shared power governments, stability will exist. If they are not stable, dictators from usually one of the nations–a dominant and militarily strong nation–will rise. As they consider relations with the newly formed “states of nations” foreign ministers the world over and international bodies should work for balanced, shared power governments and not bend to the usual preference for dictators for the sake of state stability.
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