It was easy to drink the Kool-Aid offered by the Libyan revolutionaries. With savvy slogans, hip combinations of camo uniforms and T-shirts, and engaging personalities, the young fighters, known as thuwar, were ideal for TV and photos. A good number of the revolutionaries were foreign-educated, others had close relatives in the US or Britain, and almost all had the Libyan pride and directness that strikes a familiar note with Americans particularly. When Libyans spoke of democracy, of the fact that they would “win or die,” it was natural to believe that their attitudes were much like ours, just suppressed by 42 years of a crazy dictatorship.
Now, nearly three months after Tripoli rose up on August 19th, bringing the Qaddafi years to a close, it’s possible to make a more realistic assessment of Libya and the Libyans—and what their future might hold. A few observations stand out.