I can’t decide if it’s me or Pittsburgh, and how news is covered or presented, or if the quantity of news information available reduces almost every storyline to Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame. Outside of Queen Elizabeth II and Fidel Castro, Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi (and the variations of G, Q, or K in spelling) has been an eternal presence on the world stage since I was 10 years old.
Depending on your outlook and frame of reference, Qadhafi is either an arch Arab nationalist, victimized by President Reagan, who has tried to modernize his country with a unique approach to Islam and Pan-Arabism, or a previously unapologetic supporter of terrorism who has seen the error of his ways. In either case, the idea that Libya would be the scene of a prolonged popular uprising is amazing, and yet after two weeks of reporting, it’s all but faded from the headlines.
On the surface, Libya in and of itself doesn’t have the significance of Egypt or the dynamism of Tunisia vis-a-vis the Arab street and political upheaval, but that Kadaffi has lost that much control so rapidly is to me a barometer of where the Arab world is heading. As we’ve seen in Iraq and post Mubarak Egypt, Democracy doesn’t necessarily translate into the Madison – Jefferson – Adams model we pride ourselves on in the US. A philosophy and way of life isn’t so readily exportable, it isn’t something that can just be given or imparted – it’s a process. If successful, at the end of the day it probably won’t look like what we have here and it probably shouldn’t.