In This Review

Qadhafi’s Libya, 1969-1994
Qadhafi’s Libya, 1969-1994
Edited by Dirk Vandewalle
St. Martin’s Press, 1995, 256 pp.

American politicians are quick to label Libya a backlash state, but few know much about how its curious political system works. Colonel Muammar Qadhafi has experimented on the country that he has ruled since 1969, trying to create a state without institutions, a state of the masses. Fortunately for him, oil revenues have allowed a wide margin for error and inefficiency. This excellent collection of essays presents the fullest portrait to date of modern Libya and leaves one with the sense that the Libyan people have paid a high price for their eccentric leader. The system is unlikely to outlive him, but no one can be sure what will follow. One should note that Qadhafi, who fancies himself something of a prophet, is strongly opposed by Islamists. For this reason, some regimes in the region prefer him to what they fear will be the alternative.