Rebuilding Libya – The need for statesmanship

| by Dr Ruwantissa Abeyratne

(October 26, Montrea, Sri Lanka Guardian) At an interview with Mahmoud Jibril, Acting Prime Minister of Libya, conducted in BBC’s Hard Talk on 23 October 2011, Mr. Jibril, when asked by BBCs Stephen Sackur about rebuilding Libya said that it was about “reviving the human being”. When Sackur quoted a former Tunisian ambassador who said, after the Tunisian uprising and ouster of the leader of Tunisia, that revival was “a hard road – a battle against and within ourselves” Mr. Jibril said that it would take Libya $ 24 billion per annum from now up to 2025 under the Plan “Libya 2025” and that Libya would aim at being a service economy based on knowledge.
Mr. Jibril was very clear that Libya now faces the daunting task of rebuilding. It has the money to repair the damaged infrastructure. But do Libyans have what it takes to bring about a just and fair government that would bring to fruition the aspirations of the Libyan people?. For this they would need Statesmen.
Libyans walk though a destroyed neighbourhood in Sirte on October 24, 2011. Libya’s new leaders began the tough task of forging an interim government uniting the nation’s disparate political forces after 42 years of Moamer Kadhafi’s iron-fisted rule, promising a system of Islamic sharia law. – GETTY IMAGES
One might well ask: who is a Statesman?: According to Aristotle, a Statesman need not necessarily be a politician. He or she would be a person “most anxious to produce a certain moral character in fellow citizens, namely a disposition to virtue and the performance of virtuous actions” . Former Secretary of State of the United States Henry Kissinger observed that “the Statesman’s duty is to bridge the gap between experience and vision”. There is also the well worn sentence “ the politician thinks of the next election while the statesman thinks of the next generation”. A classic example of Statesmanship is Nelson Mandela of South Africa of whom F.W. de Klerk said: “Mr. Mandela has walked a long road and now stands at the top of the hill. A traveller would sit down and admire the view. But a man of destiny knows that beyond this hill lies another and another. The journey is never complete” . Perhaps the most apt statement on statesmanship is by William Henry Beveridge, British economist and social reformer, who said that “the object of government in peace and in war is not the glory of rulers or of races, but the happiness of the common man”. This is the ultimate goal of the statesman.
In his Dialogues, Plato records a conversation between Socrates, one of the greatest known teachers of all times and the Eleatic Stranger wherein both conclude that the art of management which is entrusted to man must be subdivided into voluntary and compulsory. When the Stranger says that the management style of violent rulers is “tyranny” and the voluntary management of herds of bipeds is “politics” and he who has the latter is true king and statesman, Socrates agrees. The Dialogues of Plato record that Socrates endorsed the view that a statesman should be a blend of temperateness and courage. However, according to Socrates, courage, when untempered by the gentler nature which has evolved into a tradition through the passage of many generations, may at first bloom and strengthen, but at last burst forth into downright madness.
It is, as the Stranger is recorded in the Dialogues as saying, “ the completion of a web of political action, which is created by a direct intertexture of the brave and temperate natures, when the royal science has drawn the two minds into communion with one another by unanimity and friendship, and having perfected the noblest and best of all the webs which political life admits, and emboldening therein all other inhabitants of cities, binds them in one fabric and governs and presides over them, and, in so far as happy is vouchsafed to a city, in no particular frails fails to secure their happiness”.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, during the invasion of the Nazis in World War 11 said:
“Having received His Majesty’s commission, I have formed an Administration of men and women of every Party and of almost every point of view. We have differed and quarrelled in the past; but now one bond unites us all — to wage war until victory is won, and never to surrender ourselves to servitude and shame, whatever the cost and the agony may be. This is one of the most awe-striking periods in the long history of France and Britain. It is also beyond doubt the most sublime. Side by side, unaided except by their kith and kin in the great Dominions and by the wide empires which rest beneath their shield – side by side, the British and French peoples have advanced to rescue not only Europe but mankind from the foulest and most soul-destroying tyranny which has ever darkened and stained the pages of history” .
Almost fifty years ago, on Holy Thursday, 11 April 1963, Pope John XXIII published his epic Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris. Addressing himself to “all men of good will”. John XXIII identified the essential conditions for peace in four precise requirements of the human spirit: truth, justice, love and freedom . Truth will build peace if every individual sincerely acknowledges not only his rights, but also his own duties towards others. Justice will build peace if in practice everyone respects the rights of others and actually fulfils his duties towards them. Love will build peace if people feel the needs of others as their own and share what they have with others, especially the values of mind and spirit which they possess. Freedom will build peace and make it thrive if, in the choice of the means to that end, people act according to reason and assume responsibility for their own actions. The end of colonialism and the rise of newly independent States, the protection of workers’ rights, the new and welcome presence of women in public life, all testified to the fact that the human race was indeed entering a new phase of its history, one characterized by “the conviction that all men are equal by reason of their natural dignity”.
At the end of the day, one comes back to the inexorable and fundamental truth – that discipline, honesty and diplomacy form the cornerstone of a State’s integrity and that of the Statesman who guides the State. Aristotle, in his Nichomachean Ethics said the same when he observed: “ To judge from the lives that men lead, most men, and men of the most vulgar type, seem (not without some ground) to identify the good, or happiness, with pleasure; which is the reason why they love the life of enjoyment. For there are, we may say, three prominent types of life—that just mentioned, the political, and thirdly the contemplative life. Now the mass of mankind are evidently quite slavish in their tastes, preferring a life suitable to beasts, but they get some ground for their view from the fact that many of those in high places share the tastes of Sardanapallus. A consideration of the prominent types of life shows that people of superior refinement and of active disposition identify happiness with honour; for this is, roughly speaking, the end of the political life.”
Mr. Jibril struck me as a reasonable, rational, right thinking and honourable leader. Just the type Libya might need at this point in time. It is a pity that he has expressed his wish to resign his post after liberation is declared in Libya.
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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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