The Construction of Libya

Since 2011, the Arab countries have experienced big changes, and the governance of these countries are facing unprecedented risks. The president of Tunisian Ben Ali fled from Saudi Arabia, which led to the actual collapse of his regime. The president of Egyptian Mubarak designated in the voice of public protests. Gaddafi’s regime in Libya fell under the guise of both NATO and the domestic political opposition, while Gaddafi died. The president of Yemeni Saleh was forced to resign and took refuge in other countries. Syria governed under the Baath Party is still walking on thin ice, facing an uncertain future. The change experienced by the Arab world now is the third wave of political system reform since the nationalism in the 1950s and the Islamic revivalism in the 1980s. Because of its strong impact, magnitude of the changes and the wide range of influences, it’s deemed as another major political change as serious as the collapse of the former Soviet Union and tremendous change to East Europe, which led to the end of the Cold War, while this change caused the “chain collapse” of the power system in Arab countries and dragged the Arab countries into violent turmoil. This change has attracted great attention from international academic circles. Scholars discussed the origins of this political change from various perspectives in depth. Most of them believe that the occurrence of this change is the comprehensive result of both internal and external factors. The internal cause is the decay of the political development in these countries (especially authoritarianism, family politics, and old-age politics), stagnant economic development and the transmission of new media on the Internet. External factors are the aftermath of European and American countries’ intervention and the “Democratization of the Greater Middle East” in the United States, even climate change may be one of the factors. However, Rome is not build in one day. The root cause of this change is the problem of national construction that has plagued the Arab countries to this day.

Judging from the historical process of modern times, the construction of modern countries is mainly the construction of nation-states. However, there is a difference between the construction of the country and the construction of the nation. The former is to construct a concrete and real political community, and there is external force intervention such as the great powers and the United Nations. The latter is a community of imaginations with similar historical memories and cultural symbols, although it is Constructed but external forces are difficult to intervene. In Habermas’s view, state-building refers to a nation composed of citizens, and nation-building refers to a nation composed of people. The coincidence of the two conceptions is the ideal national state construction, and the alienation between the two will lead to the tension of citizenship and national identity. In addition to the general issues of nation-state construction, state-building also includes the advancement of specific political agendas. Judging from the practice aspect of nation-building, Neil Robinson believes that state building is not only about controlling a piece of territory, but more importantly, building certain kind of political authority and completing issues such as market economy and democratic system construction. In this sense, some scholars believe that “national construction refers to the construction of the country’s political structure, institutions, and laws, including the integration and concentration of administrative resources, enabling the state to implement unified administrative control over the territories within its sovereignty. In general, the construction of the state mainly refers to the establishment of a nation-state based on the establishment of a political community. Within the framework of a nation-state, how to construct the political community, based on external forces or internal forces, or promote by both internal and external forces, all these considerations will affect the state construction of the post-development countries compared to Western developed countries. There was a wave of decolonization and nation building in the independent countries in Asian, African, and Latin American after the Second World War. The construction of most countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America was driven by internal nationalist forces. However, although the nationalist elites played an important role in the construction of Arab countries, the external influence of the great powers has been more obvious. Libya’s state-building is even more tortuous. Libya was finally “made out” by the United Nations during the game of big powers. This distinctive way of state-building manifests the complex role of Libyan nationalist forces and geopolitics in the establishment of the country’s political community.

Some scholars have studied related issues . Although they pointed out the positive role of the big powers in the construction of Libya, they ignored its negative impact. The game of big powers and the construction promoted by the United Nations only make Libya a country with modern political sense in terms of form or content, while many substantive issues rising during the construction have not been fundamentally resolved because of split geopolitics, tribal society, etc. Though historical problems have not been effectively resolved, in the recent new period, these factors and the game of great powers repeatedly exercised their complex role in the construction of Libya. In 2011, the NATO, led by the United States and France, assisted the Libyan political opposition in overthrowing the Gaddafi’s regime. The root of this political change can still traces back to the congenital shortcomings of construction of Libya promoted by the United Nations and the development of the immature state of Libya in modern times. Therefore, regarding the issues about state-building in Libya, we need further explore: How Libya’s state construction carried out within the framework of a nation-state. To deal with this question it is particularly important to focus on geopolitics: why the big powers handed it over to the UN, how this country’s construction approach affected Libya’s politics.

Libya is located on the edge of the Arabian Peninsula, Africa and the Mediterranean, to the east is Cyrenaica, to the west is Tripolitania, and to the southwest is Fezzan. However, between these three countries there are desert barriers. Because of inconvenient interactions and separate independence, they have never been integrated into a unified political community in history. The diplomatic relations between the three regions were different: Cyrenaica and Mashreq (Mashreq, including Egypt and other countries in the Middle East) were very close, while Tripolitania recognized the Maghreb countries (including Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania). As the southern part of Libya extended deeply into the Sahara Desert, Fezzan contacted frequently with sub-Saharan African countries. Therefore, in fact, Libya has been in a centrifugal structure that has been extended by the interests of the Maghreb countries and the Mashreq countries. For this reason, Allison Paget pointed out that Libya’s construction is purely accidental. The history of Libya is a simple addition of the history of each region. Libya before independence is only a geographically agreed expression. Libyans prefer to be called the Tripoli, the Cyrene and the Fezzan. In the sense of modern state, which is integrated with administration, economy and politics, Libya has a history of only 60 years since the United Nations and great powers promoted the founding of the country in the 1951.

Because of the location in the border area of ​​Europe, Asia and Africa, and the geographical structure of the division, Libya is extremely vulnerable to interference from foreign civilizations. In the historical process of the competition of foreign civilizations, Libya has formed a complex political culture. The unification of Libya not only faces the integration of separate geopolitics, but also the integration of these composite civilization factors, namely, the geographical features of Africa, the characteristics of the Arab nation and the characteristics of Islamic religion.

Berbers, the indigenous people of Libya don’t have their own written language. It is still a mystery of history as for when the Berbers came to Libya. The Phoenician (also called Punics), is the first foreign resident in North Africa. In BC 1000, the Phoenicians occupied Tripolitania and made it a part of Carthage. From BC 218 to BC 202, the Carthaginians were defeated in the second Punic War, and Tripolitania was conquered by the Roman Empire. In the 1st century AD, the Romans defeated the Ptolemy dynasty and occupied Cyrene, where the inhabitants spoke Greek. In terms of geographical features, Cyrenaica had a more European style, while Tripolitania had an African style. Therefore, the political and cultural background of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania are quite different.

In the 4th century, after the split of the Roman Empire, the eastern and western parts of Libya were separately included in the territory of the Byzantine Empire and the Western Roman Empire. In addition to a certain trade relationship with the western part of Libya, the Fezzan area maintained an independent state. In 632, the Arab army entered the North African region. In 644, the Arabs occupied the island of Senegal. In 646, Arabs entered Tripolitania. In 663, the Arabs entered Fezzan. The arrival of the Arabs brought Arabic and Islam to the Libyan region, which had a lasting impact on modern Libyan society. However, this does not mean that these areas had quickly completed “Arabicization” or “Islamization”. The Berbers were stubbornly resistant to the Arabs in the hinterland of Tripoli. Moroccan historian Abdullah Laloy said: “The Arabization has gone through many centuries, and Islamization was done by the Berbers themselves. They ambiguously acknowledged the rule of the Arabs, while the people agreed more with the authority of local leaders.” Even during governance of the Ottoman Empire, Libya’s Arabization was still going on, while Islamization has already completed. Arabic was the main language of social interaction. However, the Arabic language of Tripolitania and Fezzan absorbed the Maghreb dialect, while the Arab dialect of Cyrenaica was similar to the Arab peninsula. Many Berbers used Arabic as a second language.

In the 11th century, Libya, which then was under the rule of Fatima Khalifa, was invaded by the Hilar and Salim tribes from the Arabian Peninsula. This was the second Arab invasion, and it had a profound impact on the formation of the Libyan tribal society. From the perspective of history and distribution, the Libyan tribes were related to the Hilary tribes and the Salim tribes. In this case, Libya became a typical tribal state. The tribe is powerful social organization in Libya, as well as a vague political unit and a source of political legitimacy. The two tribal countries had strong exclusivity, based on ethnic kinship, founded on common ethnic or ethnic ancestral myths and historical memories. Political rights and even privilege were granted only to lords of tribes, namely those political elite in a dominant position and the ruling class associated with it. Usually Libya’s state power was controlled by one lord tribe, while other tribes were in a vassal status. The nature of the Libyan tribal form was more reflected in the connection and integration of sociology rather than ideology, and the cohesiveness of the tribes and mutual relief depended on blood relationship. Tribal members often combined political identity with ethnic origin and identity. Each tribe had its own lifestyle and behavioral norms, so some scholars refer to this cultural unit of Libya as tribe-nation. When tribal nation and tribal countries are in consistent, they merger into tribal state. However, in most cases they are in consistent. Blood, tradition and tribal ties are exclusive. Tribal interests often run counter to national interests, which leads to the conflicts between tribal society and the state.

In the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire conquered Libya but did not directly rule it. Local power and tribes were still in domination. From the mid-16th century to the fall of the Ottoman Empire in1911, Libya was nominally the territory of the Ottoman Empire. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire faced the threat of the emerging European powers to the colonization of Asia, Africa and Latin America. In the face of aggression by Britain, France, Italy and other countries, the Ottoman Empire was even unable to protect itself. Libya, as the nominal territory the Ottoman Empire, had to be the first to bear the brunt. On one hand, with the growing enthusiasm of multi-level interactions between European countries and African regions, Libya’s geostrategic importance had become more apparent. On the one hand, it is the traffic hub for the Mediterranean and southern Africa, the Tripoli region was the only way to South Africa. On the other hand, it is also the trade center and transit station for European economic exchanges with Africa. The trade included feathers, ivory, gold and slaves. By the middle of the 19th century, nearly half of the African slave trade had transited through Libya.

In order to continue governance and ease the pressure on the empire, the Ottoman Empire supported the rise of religious nationalist power to resist the invasion of European countries. At that time the Senusi Order grew stronger. The mission of the Senusi Order is to revive Islam through pan-Islamic movement. It preserved the mysterious rituals of the traditional Sufis and sternly condemns the views with a pantheistic tendency. Its teachings were in line with the Wahhabi faction. The Senusi Order was founded in 1837 and the event venue is known as Zawiya. After 1843 Zawiya spreaded to Cyrenaica, Fezzan and surrounded area. Pan-Islamism got supported by the Senusi order and the Ottoman Sultans. In 1886, Sultan Hamid II became a full member of the Senusi Order and soon became a caliphate. He set up permanent establishments the Senusi order in Istanbul. The goal of the religious nationalism was directed at the French colonists, which to some extent fit in with the interests of the Ottoman Empire. The Order did not reject secular politics and did not contradict with the secularism of the Ottoman Empire. It was supported by the Ottoman Empire and became a positive political force. The empire’s support for the Sanusi movement fostered a religious nationalist force, which grew stronger after Italy’s invasion of Libya. The Order launched a large-scale resistance movement in the name of “jihad”. As early as 1870s, Italy was actively preparing to invade Libya. In 1896, after the failure of invasion of Ethiopia, Italy determined to build Libya into the “fourth coast” to the Mediterranean. As a rising, although it has just achieved reunification and its economic construction was still in its infancy, Italy always had the ambition to seek the status of great power. The occupation of North Africa was the first step in its pursuit of that status. Many Italians believed that the exercise of Italian sovereignty to the region once ruled by the Roman Empire was the obligation given by history. On September 29, 1911, Italy publicly declared war after three days of ultimatum sent to the Ottoman government. On October 5, 1911, the Italian fleet occupied Libya. The “Three-Day War” between Italy and the Ottoman Empire ended in the failure of the latter. On November 5th, the Italian government announced the annexation of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica.

Italy’s invasion provoked the emergence of resistant organizations. But those organizations scattered in different areas, and their respective political ideas were inconsistent. The Sanusi Order, which aimed at reviving Islam, directly resisted the invasion in Cyrenaica, and the Ottoman Empire had been supplying them with weapons and equipment. After the demise of the Ottoman Empire, in 1913, Saeed Ahmed established the state of Sanusi and adopted a “jihad” against the Italian invaders, and guerrilla warfare with Italy. The early resistance movement organized by the secular nationalist forces that opposed the pan-Islamism in the establishment of an Arab state in the Tripolitania region was unsuccessful. In the struggle against Italy, these two forces were constantly developing and creating national and government organizations in their respective senses.

In April 1915, European countries signed the London Treaty, recognized Italy’s occupation of Libya. However, due to the chaotic of domestic political, economic and social situation, Italy did not want to spend too much energy in Libya. In October 1920, Cyrenaica and Italy negotiated to reach the Rajma Agreement. Idris, the leader of the Senusi Order, was awarded the Emir of the Cyrene Rica to manage Kufa oasis and other places. Idris received monthly salary and living allowances from the Italian government. Italy provided police and administrative staff, and the Senussi regime is responsible for disbanding the tribal armed forces in Cyrene.

During the rule of Italian fascist, under the leadership of Idris the Cycladic people launched an anti-fascist uprising. After the failure of the uprising, Idris took refuge in Egypt, but the resistance movement under the leadership of his assistant Saeed Omar Mukhtar gained political legitimacy through the cooperation of the tribes of Cyrenaica and became an important power in the process of building Libya.

It can be said that the geopolitical pattern of division, the complex tribal social structure, the competition of Berber, Greek, Roman, Arab, Ottoman Turk and Italian in three regions became the theme of Libyan history. It is the background of Libya’s national form. In modern times, under the circumstances of various foreign powers, the local Sanusi religious nationalism and Arab nationalism movement have also been promoted.

The Great Country Dividing Program and Collective Trusteeship Program during the Potsdam Conference. On July 18, 1945, President Truman proposed to hand over the Italian colonial issue (including the Libya issue) to the Foreign Ministers Committee composed of the five foreign ministers of the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom. The Soviet Union suggested to divide Libya. US Secretary of State Burns and British Foreign Secretary Aiden opposed the Soviet Union and suggested that the Libyan colonial issue be put on hold. At the end of the Potsdam Conference, the positions of the major powers on the Libya issue gradually approached, that is, collective custody.

On September 11, 1945, the foreign ministers of the British, American, French, and Soviet held a meeting in London. The solution to Libya was becoming clearer, namely the choice of a collective custody scheme and a UN hosted model.

In April 1946, the Foreign Ministers’ Committee held a meeting in Paris, known as the Paris Conference. British Foreign Minister Bevan revisited the issue of hosting the Italian colonies by the United Nations, while France proposed to hand over the sovereignty of the Italian colonies to the United Nations. The Soviet Union proposed to invite Italy to participate in Libya’s trusteeship, set up an advisory committee composed of four countries: Britain, France, and the United States. Italy served as a deputy, and the Soviet Union administered Tripoli. Ten years later, these colonies achieved independence. British Foreign Minister Bevin immediately raised a rebuttal and suggested that Libya become a sovereign independent country. After the announcement of the British plan, it immediately received support from the Libyan domestic population. France opposed the British idea and supports the Soviet proposal for two reasons: one was to worry about the British control of Libya; the other was that Libya’s economic development was backward and there was no condition for independence. On July 15, 1946, at the second Paris meeting, the United States proposed that the time to deal with the Italian colonial issue should be extended by one year; if the major powers could not reach an agreement within one year, the Libya issue would be submitted to the UN General Assembly. Although the Paris Conference did not achieve any results, the idea of ​​setting up a commission of inquiry to examine the Libyan people was also reflected in the pragmatic attitude of the big countries seeking solutions to problems in the difficult situation.

In February 1947, Italy signed the Agreement on Peace, canceled the colonial relationship between Italy and Libya, stipulated that the ownership of Libya was jointly decided by the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union, and considered the intention of the Libyan people.

On December 15, 1951, Britain and France handed over all powers except defense and diplomacy to the Libyan interim government in accordance with the arrangements of the UN General Assembly. On December 24th, the United Kingdom of Libya was established, and Idris was king. The establishment of the United Kingdom of Libya marked the initial completion of the construction of the Libyan state.

The transfer of the Libyan issue to the UN General Assembly had a decisive impact on Libya’s future. As far as the actual situation is concerned, there is no nationalist force in Libya at that time that, with its own authority, can establish a government with political legitimacy that is convincing to the people. Under the impetus of the United Nations, geopolitical leaders and nationalist forces have reached a certain consensus in the establishment of a political community, which has enabled Libya to end the situation of separation and gain the basis for unity of the country, but contradictions between nation-building and state-building are still deeply embedded in this new political community.

� Patrick Sutter, State-Building or the Dilemma of Intervention: An Introduction, in Julia Raue and Patrick Sutter, eds., Facets and Practices of State-Building, Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2009, pp. 7-9.

� Neil Robinson, State-Building and International Politics: The Emergence of a New Problem and Agenda, in Aidan Hehir and Neil Robinson, eds., State-Building: Theory and Practice, London: Routledge, 2007, p.13.

� Adrian Pelt, Libyan Independence and the United Nations: A Case of Planned Decolonization, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1970; Hisham Sabki, International Authority and the Emergence of Modern Libya, India University, Doctor Degree Dissertation, 1967

� Majid Khadduri, Modern Libya: A Study in Political Development, p.v.

� Abdulhafid Fadil Elmayer, Tripolitania and the Roman Empire, Markovz Jihad al-Libya Studied Center, 1997, Deposition Number 1996/1915/Dar. Kotob. P. O. Box: 5070/Tripoli, p.56.

� Henry Serrano Villard, Libya: The New Arab Kingdom of North Africa, New York: Cornell University Press, 1956, p.12.

� Abdallah Laroui, The History of the Maghrib: An Interpretive Essay, trans. Ralph Manheim, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977, p. 87.

� Louis Dupree, The Arabs of Modern Libya, The Muslim World, vol. 48, no. 2, 1958, pp. 113-124

� Abdullatif Ahmida, The Making of Modern Libya: State Formation, Colonization, and Resistance, 1830-1932, New York: State University of New York Press, 1994, p.86.

� E. E. Evans-Pritchard, The Sanusi of Cyrenaica, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959, pp. 24-25

� Lisa S. Anderson, The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 1830-1980, Princeton University Press, 1986, p.118.

� Ronald Bruce St John, Libya: From Colony to Independence, pp. 57-58.

� Dirk Vandewalle, A History of Modern Libya, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, p.28.

� C. Grove Haines, The Problem of the Italian Colonies, Middle East Journal, vol. 1, no. 4 (October 1947), p. 425.

� Scott L. Bills, The Libyan Arena: The United States, Britain, and the Council of Foreign Ministers, 1945-1948, p.56.

� Hisham Sabki, International Authority and the Emergence of Modern Libya, p. 46.