While I have been more than a little intrigued by the situations taking place in the Middle East (from Tunisia to Bahrain and everything in between), I find it rather difficult to keep up with everything that’s going on. What started in Tunisia has swept the region and has evolved so rapidly that it’s difficult to really wrap one’s mind atround the issues taking place in each nation. To truly understand the issues, I feel as though I need to understand each country’s history, their demographic makeup, their leadership, their alliances, etc. I don’t feel that I’ve had the time to uncover or understand the issues in enough depth to be able to engage with the information properly.
However, a particular chord was struck when the revolution spread to Libya. It was less than a year ago that I sat in front of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and listened to him speak about Libya, a country that he noted was ‘theoretically the most democratic nation in the world’. Saif completed his PhD at the LSE and Libyan money has made its way to the institution by way of endowments. While Libya has been the focus of much media attention, LSE has caught some heat for their association with the Gaddafi family. Pressure has been put on the institution to donate the funds to charity and the legitimacy of Gaddafi’s PhD has been in question. Dr. Ulrichsen, a fellow at the LSE Center for Global Governance, is one whose insight I always value. His education and research has made him quite the expert on issues with the Arab Gulf States (read his new paper on Bahrain: Evolution or Revolution?) and I always enjoy his educated insight (follow him on twitter for valuable mini updates). Being that he works with the CGG, I was drawn to their webpage for some updates from LSE’s perspective. I found the following note from David Held that I thought I would share here for anyone interested. I think that the LSE has really handled the issue with a great deal of grace and, as noted below, the institute has stopped work on the North Africa Programme. Visit the Center’s website for more.
Libya: A Personal Statement from David Held
(taken from the LSE Center for Global Governance)
I watched the speech last night by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and was deeply disturbed by its failure to grasp the changing circumstances of the Middle East in general, and of Libya in particular. Rather than seeing the opportunity for reform based on liberal democratic values and human rights, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi stressed the threat of civil war and foreign intervention.
I have known Saif al-Islam Gaddafi for several years since he did a PhD at the LSE. During this time I came to know a young man who was caught between loyalties to his family and a desire to reform his country. In many discussions and meetings I encouraged the development of his reform agenda and subsequently sought to support it through research on the North Africa Programme funded by the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation (see http://www2.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/news/archives/2011/02/libya_funding.aspx)
My support for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was always conditional on him resolving the dilemma that he faced in a progressive and democratic direction. The speech last night makes it abundantly clear that his commitment to transforming his country has been overwhelmed by the crisis he finds himself in.
He tragically, but fatefully, made the wrong judgement. As a result, the LSE has stopped new work on the North Africa Programme, although we will continue to pursue research and policy development, as we have done, on behalf of the democratisation process in the Middle East.
Read David Held’s interview in The Guardian.
A further statement has been issued by the LSE.
On the menu for this evening: LSE podcasts and a scouring of Al Jazeera with a sprinkling of relevant articles from The Economist. All of this new information makes me realize how much I need to catch up!