News Release: Faculty Experts, International

Aug. 26,  2011

Libya: Emory Expert Weighs in on What's Next

News Article ImageVincent Cornell

With Libya on the verge of liberation and its notorious leader in hiding, “the country will need to pick up the pieces and start from scratch,” once the dusts settles, says Vincent Cornell, Asa Grigs Candler Professor of Middle East and Islamic Studies, and an expert in contemporary Islamic and North African affairs.  

Despite the challenges Libya faces, Cornell says he is hopeful the country’s rebellion will result in true democratic change and a stable government after decades of patrimonial rule under Gadhafi.

“The Transitional National Council includes many very educated members, many of them trained in the United States. And if exiles continue to return to the country, we will possibly see some sort of democratic government based on American or European models,” says Cornell, who also serves as chair of Emory’s Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies.

While Libya does have factions of religious extremists, chances are relatively slim that they would take control of the country. At the same time, Cornell says too much has been made of the tribal nature of Libya society and politics.

“Tribal elites have been broken and worn down with a dictator in power for more than 40 years. There are of course many nostalgic connections Libyans have to tribes, but tribalism isn’t the source of political power it once was.”    

“The rebellion began as a spontaneous movement that caught on like wildfire. As a result there are all sorts of people involved, from moderates to extremists across the Libyan diaspora in the U.S. And Europe, so compromise will be necessary if a stable and democratic society is to be formed,” says Cornell.


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