The author's aim was to write "a simple survey . . . as accurate as the available information will allow," and she has achieved it, with just enough geography, history, internal political dynamics and foreign policy to introduce a country little known though much in the news. In the center of the picture, naturally, is Qaddafi, whom the Libyan people and the rest of the world have had to endure for nearly two decades. The author, a former U.S. foreign service officer, has no particular sympathy with the Libyan leader, but none either with the U.S. policy of confrontation and military coercion, which she thinks only serves to strengthen him at home and in the Arab world.