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Political Scientist Michael Desch Discusses Post-Qadaffi Libya

Michael Desch

With the Qadaffi regime crumbling as rebels take over the capital city, hopes for a new democratic Libya has the world hopefully watching. But University of Notre Dame international relations expert Michael Desch is cautious about the post-Qadaffi Libya.

“Now the challenge is to moderate our expectations about what comes after Qadaffi,” says Desch, chair of Notre Dame’s Department of Political Science. “There will no doubt be a period of instability and turmoil but we have to give the Libyans time to get their own house in order.”

The temptation to “oversell” the model of toppling a dictator also is something people need to resist, according to Desch.

“It worked in Libya because there was an indigenous opposition. But as we learned in Afghanistan, even supporting a successful indigenous opposition does not guarantee that it will be able to establish a functioning democracy quickly, if at all. That is something that only they can do,” Desch says.

Though the prospect of a Qadaffi-free Libya is promising, the U.S. must proceed with caution, according to Desch.

“If we set overly ambitious goals such as fostering a vibrant democracy in a deeply fractured and painfully backward society, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.”

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