Skip to main content

Giving Extremists Space in Libya

Ann Marlowe

There is good news today from Libya in that President Mohammed Magarief has ordered the disbanding of all unauthorized militias. While the question of who is—and who is not—authorized is not as simple as it may appear, Magarief’s move is a welcome assertion of the state’s monopoly on violence in a country where this concept is poorly understood. Still, even if the nascent state is able to bring all armed groups under control, there are aspects of the Libyan attitude toward armed Islamic extremists that remain troubling.

Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of Libyan culture is the willingness to tolerate even those who are violently intolerant, like the Islamic extremist groups who killed four Americans in Benghazi last week. I’ve tried to explain to Libyan friends that in the US, people who form militias opposing the government are killed. The state has a monopoly on violence. But in Libya, people say that they have to talk to al-Qaeda elements or other extremist militias. In Derna, locals were proud of having banished Ansar al-Sharia commandos to the mountains and caves around the city. I’d half-expected people in Derna to ask for US Special Forces help in finding and capturing them, but no. While they deplored the absence of the Libyan police and army, there was no sense that killing the extremists was a crucial point. Instead, they worried that driving out the extremists prevented a “dialogue” with them….

Click here to read the full text of this article.

Related Articles

Trump Meets with Macron Amid Russia Firestorm

Benjamin Haddad

On July 13th, Benjamin Haddad appeared on CNN Today to discuss the Trump-Macron meeting and the recent controversy surrounding Donald Trump Jr. ifram...

Watch Now

The Terror-Fighting Burden on Emmanuel Macron: What President Trump Should Ask From The French President

Kenneth R. Weinstein & Michael Makovsky

President Trump meets French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris this week to commemorate the 100th anniversary of America's entry into World War I. Th...

Continue Reading

The Impossible Quest for Absolute Security

Richard Weitz

Demands for perfect security by one nation, without regard for others, heighten anxiety and prompt unnecessary weapons buildup...

Continue Reading