In his story about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s meeting in Paris with the leadership of Libya’s rebels, the Washington Post‘s Sudarsan Raghavan reports that the National Transitional Council (the rebel’s government-in-waiting) is made up of lawyers and intellectuals who profess ambitions of creating a Libya governed by democratic ideals, “possibly altering the face of the Arab world and inspiring more autocratic regimes to fall.”
Raghavan goes on to note that Abdul Hafidh Ghoga, a prominent lawyer who has been the public face of the council, said that
the council unanimously wants to put in place a democratic, civilian government with a constitution, separation of powers, freedom of the press and assembly, and multiparty elections. ”We want a Libya where no one is above the law,” Ghoga said.
The rebel leaders envision a parliamentary rather than a presidential system … rebel officials stressed that while Islam would be the official religion, a post-Gaddafi government would be secular. “It will never be an Islamic regime,” Daghili [a constitutional law professor who is a member of the rebel national council] said. “The revolution seeks advancement for both men and women. The women here are well educated. It is far from a Taliban-like state.”
What is striking about the goals of the leadership of the Libyan uprising is how (classically) liberal and democratic they are — and therefore how representative they are of the broader revolution sweeping the Middle East and North Africa right now. In country after country, we don’t hear demands for an Iranian-style theocracy; what we hear instead are appeals to American and British forms of government. This kind of thing was almost unheard of in the Middle East and North Africa not long ago; today it is almost the coin of the realm. This is a staggering thing to witness.
Whether these democratic impulses will prevail has yet to be determined. The situation is extremely fluid, and the forces arrayed against liberty are ruthless and powerful. Which is why the role of America matters. Which brings us to Barack Obama and his deep ambivalence and passivity in the midst of this unfolding drama. One might have thought that the president of the United States would place his country squarely on the side of those fighting and dying for democracy and a liberal, modern Middle East. But sadly, one would be wrong.