The Burning Shores: Inside the Battle for the New Libya
By Frederic Wehrey
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018, 352 pp.
Wehrey brings the eye of a military professional, a scholar, and a journalist to this vivid depiction of the Libyan conflict. He describes the places and people at the center of the struggle, from jihadists to secular feminists. His lengthy account of the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, in 2012, shows that Stevens was aware of the dangers he faced in Benghazi and took the calculated risk to go there anyway. Wehrey also gives a good sense of Libya’s division into two dominant factions, one based in Benghazi and aligned with Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army, and the other based in Misurata and Tripoli and with a major Islamist element. Wehrey sees Haftar as a real danger, a would-be military dictator in the mold of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, with the backing of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. On top of the domestic conflict, Wehrey shows that the Islamic State (or ISIS) has managed to establish a foothold in Libya between the two factions. Although he explains this mess effectively, Wehrey offers no way out of it.