Former US envoy: After Gadhafi, Libya’s Real Transition Begins

Posted October 20th, 2011 at 2:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Editor's Note: This is a partial transcript of an interview Thursday with former U.S. Ambassador Marc Ginsberg, discussing his views of the situation in Libya following the death of Moammar Gadhafi.

VOA's Carla Babb: What does this mean for Libya?

Ginsberg: It's the beginning of the end of the conflict, and it's the beginning now of what is essentially is the real transition , because the government, having consolidated its control over the country by the fall of Sirte, is going to have to turn almost all of its attention to consolidating authority throughout the country, dealing with the demands of disparate groups, determining who's going to run the country and how the election are going to be run, and then – most importantly – providing humanitarian relief.

Q: What is the Libyan government's next step?

A: … So the question for the Libyan people is, first of all, how do they begin turning their attention to organizing civilian societies and organizations that never existed in Libya before? It's not as if Gadhafi's gone and the PTA [post-transitional authority] is there. There's no organizations. This is exactly what the biggest problem was.

Ginsberg then lists Libya's problems:

How do you consolidate control over the major cities? How do you provide the urgent humanitarian medical relief. I mean, after all, Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton was there two days ago and a good part of her discussion was on the urgent humanitarian needs that the Libyans have. How do you get oil back online – 1.7 million barrels of oil a day, and that's Cadillac [high-quality] crude. It's a country that has a lot of wealth potential. And then how do you organize elections?

Q: Do you think they have a plan set?

A: Yes, I've watched the committee, the Transitional National Council, divide itself into working groups, and they've been pretty effective for a group of people who were never given the right to have – hold – power. They've been pretty effective in having the Libyan people consolidate their support for them. And that's very important. This victory today for them, for the Transitional National Council leadership, is crucial to having the Libyan people believe that they are in effect a coherent governing authority.

Q: What does this mean, in terms of policy, for U.S. relations with Libya and with the Middle East?

A: I think the Libyan people are grateful to the United States for the support that NATO provided, and that they were able to claim that they did this themselves, more or less.

From a policy perspective, I think it comes down to a question of how does this benefit the United States in rebuilding trust and confidence among the other Arabs who are less charitable to the United States' role in the Arab Spring. And that remains to be seen. After all, look what's taking place in Syria. Syrians are going to say, “Why not us? Why, are we not as deserving as the Libyan people?” And it may in the end put more pressure on the administration to determine how and what to do about Syria.

I think for the Libyan people this is a real time of healing. And the question is, can they rejoice sufficiently to consolidate their own aspirations