Grand Strategy for BEKA! Awakening

The broadest conception of how an objective is to be attained in a conflict by a chosen course of action. The grand strategy serves to coordinate and direct all appropriate and available resources (human, political, economic, moral, etc.) of the group to attain its objectives in a conflict… [read more]

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    May 27, 2011
    What Did Qaddafi’s Green Book Really Say?

    If Libya’s ragtag coalition of rebels manages to dislodge Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi from power it will mean not only the fall of the longest reigning dictator in the Arab world but also the end of the ambitious ideological system that he dreamed would supersede all rivals. While much of the world sees him as an eccentric and brutal demagogue, Qaddafi has tried for decades to portray himself as a statesman-philosopher. It’s an aspiration best embodied in the Green Book, his notorious three-part meditation on politics, economics and everything from the evils of mechanized poultry farming to the importance of owning one’s car. In Libya, the text is omnipresent: several generations of students grew up studying it, and the government even constructed sculptures in its image. Most analyses of the Green Book emphasize Qaddafi’s many digressions and penchant for stating the obvious, like his proclamation that “woman is a female and man is a male.” Because it is muddled, the book is often dismissed as simply a hodgepodge of aphorisms, the ramblings of a mad dictator. And in fact, the slim 21,000-word treatise does not present a coherent worldview. But the Green Book does have its own peculiar logic: a mixture of utopian socialism, Arab nationalism and the Third World revolutionary ideology that was in vogue at the time it was written, along with a streak of Bedouin supremacism. And its tone and style echo a long tradition in classical Arabic literature: that of the ruler or his faithful scribe expounding on matters of philosophy, politics, art, culture or whatever strikes his fancy. In 1975, six years after he took power, Qaddafi published the first volume of the Green Book — immodestly titled “The Solution of the Problem of Democracy.” With it, he promised to rescue the world from the failures of Western democracy and Communism alike: his “Third Universal Theory” would usher in an era of mass democracy in which people would rule themselves directly. Qaddafi rails against elections, political parties and popular representation (“The most tyrannical dictatorships the world has known have existed under the shadow of parliaments”). He decries plebiscites as “a fraud against democracy.” The only genuine form of democracy, he argues, is one where the masses come together in people’s committees, popular congresses and professional associations. “The problem of democracy in the world,” he declares, “is completely solved.” The second volume offers “The Solution of the Economic Problem,” a jumble of quasi-socialist ideals and capitalist notions. In some parts, Qaddafi appears to be a class-conscious self-help guru: “There are no wage-workers in the socialist society, only partners,” and “Man’s freedom is lacking if somebody else controls what he needs.” In other sections, he exalts property ownership: “There is no freedom for a man who lives in another’s house, whether he pays rent or not,” and “Your vehicle should not be owned by others.” Some scholars have compared the Green Book’s political and economic ideology to Rousseau, Mao and Marx; others have traced its threads back to Islamic philosophy. But the book contains hardly any external references — no mentions of religious texts or political and economic thinkers that might have influenced Qaddafi. (One of the few hints of an external source is this gem of attributing the obvious: “According to a gynecologist, woman menstruates or suffers feebleness every month, while man, being a male, does not menstruate and he is not subject to the monthly period which is a bleeding.”) By most accounts, Qaddafi was not particularly well educated or well read when he set about composing the Green Book. There is little doubt, however, that he was highly influenced by Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian officer who led a revolution in 1952 that ousted the ­British-backed King Farouk. As a teenager, Qaddafi listened to Cairo Radio’s “Voice of the Arabs” and memorized Nasser’s speeches. Nasser’s own slim treatise, “Egypt’s Liberation: The Philosophy of the Revolution,” was first published in 1955. Despite its title, there is little philosophy in this collection of anecdotes, ruminations, epiphanies and personal history. Even so, Nasser makes a forceful case for resisting imperialism by establishing Pan-Arab, Pan-African, and Pan-Islamic identities, and argues that it’s the duty of the leader to unite and lead these realms. Citing Luigi Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” Nasser describes the Arab world as “wandering aimlessly in search of a hero” — no doubt Qaddafi saw himself as just such a hero. Unlike the modernizing Nasser, however, Qaddafi also expressed a reverence for Bedouin and traditional tribal society. Here, Qaddafi was probably influenced by Ibn Khaldun, the 14th-century North African Muslim historian and philosopher whose “Muqaddimah,” or “Prolegomenon,” is considered a forerunner of modern social science. In his sweeping history of civilization, Ibn Khaldun divided society into two categories, nomadic and sedentary. He argued that as humans grow more “civilized” — and farther away from being strong, proud, free Bedouins — they become decadent and weak. Qaddafi champions Bedouin solidarity and contrasts the ills of modern life with an idealized “natural” past. For example, his attack on mechanized poultry farms (“The meat of wild birds is more tasty and nourishing because they grow naturally and are naturally fed”) is set within a larger diatribe against the evils of sending children to nurseries and the importance of “natural motherhood.” In another passage, Qaddafi calls compulsory education a “forced stultification of the masses” and urges a “worldwide cultural revolution to emancipate man’s mind from curricula of fanaticism.” Soon after the publication of his first volume, Qaddafi announced that he would put the tenets of the Green Book into practice. He resigned from all official positions in 1977 and proclaimed himself the “Guide to the Era of the Masses.” Libyans, he claimed, would begin to rule themselves, replacing government administration with people’s committees — a network of town councils across Libya. Of course, Qaddafi and his cronies maintained an iron grip; the popular congresses were called into session a few times a year — at Qaddafi’s whim — and they simply reaffirmed the leader’s wishes. In the 1980s, Qaddafi and his advisers tried to impose some of the economic ideas laid out in the Green Book, contorting themselves to put a veneer of local control on a centralized socialist system. They instituted a ­government-run supermarket system and issued an edict allowing each family to own only one home. Such “reforms” produced a system rife with corruption and mismanagement, and devastated the traditional merchant class. But Qaddafi was not content with twisting Libyan society around the doctrine of the Green Book; he wanted to spread the gospel. The World Center for the Study and Research of the Green Book, a think tank in Tripoli, had a staff of more than 100 and branches around the world. (It was destroyed early this month by NATO airstrikes.) Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, the center had a ­multimillion-dollar annual budget, which was spent on translating the book into more than 30 languages, underwriting international conferences and churning out nearly 140 studies and scholarly papers on Qaddafi’s theories. Commentaries analyzing the text’s every aspect were taught in all Libyan schools, and masters and doctoral students at universities were encouraged to write dissertations on it. Small wonder, then, that when the current wave of Arab revolts reached Libya, one of the first expressions of the will of the masses was to burn the very book Qaddafi claimed would set them free. Mohamad Bazzi teaches journalism at New York University and is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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