Nothing is going to plan in Libya. It took the death of the US ambassador in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi on 11 September to turn western media interest to the security situation, even though it has been deteriorating since the fall of Gaddafi’s regime. Back in July, the media did notice when the “liberal” National Forces Alliance led by Mahmoud Jibril beat the Muslim Brotherhood in the general election, winning 39 of the 80 seats reserved for political parties; the Brothers took 17 (1).
Many commentators pronounced Jibril the man of the moment. Confident of their skill in political science and the analysis of election results, they failed to grasp the complexity and fragmentation of the political landscape. A few weeks later, their predictions were confounded when the new General National Congress appointed as its president Mohammed Magarief, whose National Front party (self-professed moderate Islamist) had only won three seats at the election. On 12 September, the congress chose Mustafa Abu Shagur as prime minister over Jibril, by two votes.
Supported principally by the Islamists, Abu Shagur had been deputy prime minister in the previous “transitional” government. The choice of Shagur demonstrates the difficulty in applying conventional party political models to Libya, where local or even tribal allegiances and rivalries often take precedence over the divide between “Islamists” and “liberals” that is the frame of reference normally used in the West.
Phi Beta Iota: Neighboord-level granularity or “two-levels down” is still the need for the new craft of intelligence, but the legacy systems and mind-sets just cannot get a grip on history, culture, tribes, foreign languages, or even extended families and their global distributed wealth. Half the problem is that the policy world could care less about reality; the other half of the problem is that the secret world is completely out of touch with reality.