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After Qaddafi: Can a democratic Libya unify a divided society?

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On the brighter side, Greig says, is the fact that Libya’s political transition was accomplished by indigenous forces and was not imposed from the outside.

“One area of optimism would be that Libya is not Iraq and Afghanistan,” he says, “where the change in regimes was imposed by an outside power. Those kinds of regimes tend to struggle pretty significantly.”

Libya will be watched closely around the Arab region and indeed by powers, like the United States, concerned about the ability of inexperienced leaders to stabilize and control a fractured society.

One of the purposes of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s surprise visit to Tripoli Tuesday was to convey this concern to Libya’s transition leadership – and to underscore American support for a timely and open political transition to a representative democracy.

The Libya scenario may have less in common with that of a country like Egypt, with its fairly cohesive society, than with other regional trouble spots like Yemen and Syria, some regional experts say. In those countries, authoritarian rulers continue to try to hold on to power in either tribally or religiously and ethnically diverse societies.

The lesson Bashar al-Assad of Syria is likely to take from Qaddafi’s bloody demise is not the one the US would like him to take, says North Texas’s Greig.

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