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Is Libya The First ‘True Arab Revolution’?

Filed by KOSU News in World News.
August 27, 2011

The Libyan rebels’ takeover of Tripoli may be a landmark of the movement known as the Arab Spring, but does it qualify as a revolution?

James DeFronzo, author of the book Revolutions and Revolutionary Movements, thinks it’s still too early to tell.

“You have to have some great structural, institutional change for an uprising to eventually be legitimately called a revolution,” he tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host Laura Sullivan.

An uprising is only the first part of the revolution puzzle, he says. And pushing a dictator out of power isn’t enough, either.

DeFronzo says the makings of a complete revolution involve an overhaul of both the economic and governmental structure of a country.

It’s too soon to tell how much “real revolution” we’re seeing in the Arab spring, let alone Libya, he says. To determine that, the world will just have to wait and watch.

On the other hand, Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center, thinks Libya’s uprising does qualify as the first true Arab revolution.

“What’s different about Libya is here, for the first time, it will actually be the rebels and revolutionaries who will govern their new country in the post-Gadhafi era,” he tells Sullivan. “They’re operating with a blank slate, they don’t have to worry about the old regime structures — they can really start anew.”

It doesn’t matter that the rebels’ victory came with help from Western countries, Hamid says.

“I’m sure, ideally, all of us would have liked the Libyans to do this totally on their own,” he says, “but we don’t live in that ideal world and sometimes the West can play a positive role.”

Even with this victory for Libyan rebels, their country’s future can go in any number of directions. They may want to take a lesson from Egypt’s aftermath, Hamid says.

In Egypt, the liberals and Islamists were united in their quest to oust a dictator. Now that they have to collaborate politically, Hamid says, their conflicting agendas are becoming more apparent.

“I think that’s really hindered the success of Egypt’s transition thus far, because people are at each other’s throats,” he says.

Libyans are in a similar situation. After working together to push out Gadhafi, factions could turn on each other.

Hamid says Libya needs to allow each group a seat at the table. The danger, he notes, is leaving a section of the Libyan people feeling pushed off to the side, which could incite more violence.

“It’s very important to give people incentive to be part of the political and democratic process so they feel that they can express their grievances peacefully,” Hamid says. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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