Tripoli

Cinnabon is one of the most popular Western chains in the Middle East. What can it tell us about the Arab Spring?

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Just a year has gone by since the Arab Spring first hit Libya, and celebrations of Libya's liberation from its despicable dictator aren't exactly making headlines. Indeed, has there been much to glorify? There is little semblance of a central government, and intertribal fighting shows no signs of abatement. Are the Libyan people better off now than they were before France and Britain, with the United States "leading from behind," rushed to the rescue of the 2011 revolution?

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After Qaddafi

The city of Tawargha is the only Libyan coastal town completely populated by blacks, the descendants of the slaves who were once trafficked through the Islamic world. Libya’s blacks have long endured discrimination, but, during the revolution that swept Muammar Qaddafi from power, the residents of Tawargha acquired a new unpopularity—because they fought on the side of the fallen leader. Tawargha is about 15 miles from the rebel stronghold of Misrata, whose residents claim Tawarghans helped Qaddafi’s forces in an eleven-week siege against their city.

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Just months ago, the prospect of a no-fly or “buffer” zone for protecting Syrian civilians was roundly rejected by just about everyone. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in early August that a U.N.-sponsored military action in Syria was “not a remote possibility.” Anders Rasmussen, the Secretary-General of NATO, was asked in Tripoli in November if a round-two interdiction might be in the offing in Damascus: “My answer is very short,” he answered. “NATO has no intention [to intervene] whatsoever.

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The Pretender

Many characters made appearances during my efforts earlier this year to persuade the international community that the freedom fighters of Libya needed the world’s help.

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Friended

On a Tuesday morning in September, three buses full of Libyan tribesmen milled around the gilded lobby of the Ritz Carlton hotel in Doha, the shimmering glass capital of Qatar. The tribesmen were dressed in a mixture of suits and ties and sweeping white robes, and they had come to personally thank the emir for helping them to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi. Yusef Mansoori, a member of the delegation, told me earnestly, “We would like to thank him very, very much for everything he has done for us.” Certainly, the Libyans had plenty to be grateful for.

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Against One

Nothing demystifies a dictator like death. The videos of Qaddafi dragged from a drainpipe, addled and bloodied, and then dead on the floor of a large freezer, harshly illustrated the absurdity of tyranny. An entire country held for forty-two years in the grip of this flabby, destructible man? It makes no sense; or rather this particular view of dictatorship makes no sense—the cinematically simple notion of the dictator as shrewdly, almost magically in control of a whole people, a solitary villain at the top whose removal is all that is required for his society to be free.

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The death of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and the fall of his last two loyal towns mark the end of the revolution that has rocked the country for eight months.

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Arab Spring, My Foot

Or, better yet, “my ass.” The Arab Spring has been with us for nearly three quarters of a year. This is not a long time as history goes. But the annual flowers of the spare land have long ago vanished into the crude, mostly gritty sand that is the Middle East. It’s not, though, as if it is at all back to “normal” in the Arab world. And, frankly, we haven’t the slightest about what normal in the Arab world is or will be. The Muslims and the Jews and the increasingly scarce but differentiated Christians who constituted the region lived (and live) recreant lives.

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