Published August 22, 2011
The Libyan Revolution, like all revolutions, is a three act play. Act One is the Fall of the Dictator. Act Two is the Rebels Turn. Act Three is It's a Fluid Situation... with lots of players, and anything can happen.
Let's review this drama so far:
Act One: The Fall of the Dictator. Sometimes this act is quick, bloodless and easy, as it was in Egypt when President Mubarak was pushed aside. Libya has taken longer, six months of fighting, with a major and critical assist from NATO forces.
Act Two: The Rebels Rule. With the Dictator gone, it's the Rebels' turn to try their hand at governing. This is where everything starts to fall apart. The rebels, who had been united in their opposition to the hated Dictator and his gang, now start falling out amongst themselves. All the ancient animosities the Dictator had kept under wraps, are now unleashed in Act Two, as we saw in Iraq.
The Rebels have never had leadership roles, yet they're now expected to run the country.
In Libya, Qaddafi, his relatives and his tribe, had their hands on all the levers of power for forty years. Now those hands are gone. But can the rebels take their places, and quickly enough to restore order before chaos ensues?
Act Two usually ends with everything up for grabs, and it's likely to be the same with Libya.
Act Three: Where Everything Gets Resolved. Either the rebels find a way to get their act together, unite the country and establish security and order, and get civil society going again.
If they can't, there is civil war, and the well meaning reformers are thrust aside by the more ruthless, violent, committed group willing to do anything to gain power. That's what happened with Iranian revolution when the Shah of Iran fell in the late 1970. By 1980 the Ayatollahs were in charge and we all know how that turned out.
Today and for the next few days watch these main players in the Libyan drama. The next 72 hours will be crucial in whether this play is ultimately a drama, tragedy or farce. How they respond during the opening scenes of Act Two will determine how this play ends.
And, as the world watches this unfold, don't forget the players. Here's a look at them:
The Rebels: Who are the rebels? Are they Islamists thirsting to establish a strict Sharia state? Are they western-educated secularists who want democracy and self-government? Are they bureaucrats who know how to run things? Are they warriors who love to fight, but don't have a clue what to do when the fighting stops? Or.....as is more likely.....all of the above?
Will the Rebels stay united? Can they govern? Will they break along tribal, ethnic, and religious fault lines? When things get difficult -- and they will -- do the rebels start blaming each other? Will they spend their energies settling scores with the remnants of the Qaddafi clan, pushing for justice for the men who murdered their families and friends? Or will they get on with the rather boring business of governing -- making sure the streets are safe, the water is running and the electricity works?
Clan Qaddafi: Do the extended members of the Qaddafi clan flee or stay and fight? Do they flee abroad? If so, will they be granted a safe haven or be turned over to the International Criminal Court or arrested at home for trial and probable execution, Mubarak-style? Do they go underground, Saddam-style, and lead an insurgency? Do they regroup and come back to fight again, Taliban-style?
NATO: We helped deliver the Libyan rebels a revolution with our drone strikes and behind the scenes special forces. Will we stick around to help them form a government, or breathe a sigh or relief with the fall of Qaddafi and head for the exits?
Will this be Iran redux, where the Carter administration helped push out the Shah but then failed to help the Iranian Revolutionaries form the post-Shah government -- and ended up with an radical Islamist government far worse than the Shah's ever was in Iran. Or will NATO and the United States offer technical assistance as Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush did to Eastern Europe when the Iron Curtain came down, and see an entire region become pro-Western and self-governing?
Months ago the Arab spring opened to a sense of wonderment and euphoria. But once the opening night enthusiasms faded, the Arab Spring has had very mixed reviews.
Egypt's revolution will likely end in the election of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
Bahrain's revolution is on hold for now, but Iran would like to see it play out again.
Morocco is turning out well so far, with a rapid transition to democratic government, but this is only at the beginning.
Syria is a simply a bloodbath.
The Arab Spring started out to cheers that the Arab Muslim world was throwing off the shackles of dictatorship and oppression. But as the season has worn on, the initial enthusiasm has given way to a harsher reality. Will the Spring become the Winter of our Discontent? We'll have to stay in our seasts 'til the end of the play to know how it turns out.
Kathleen Troia "K.T." McFarland is a Fox News National Security Analyst and host of FoxNews.com's DefCon 3. She is a Distinguished Adviser to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and served in national security posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations. She wrote Secretary of Defense Weinberger’s November 1984 "Principles of War Speech" which laid out the Weinberger Doctrine. Be sure to watch "K.T." every Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET on FoxNews.com's "DefCon3"-- already one of the Web's most watched national security programs.