Who'll Fill Void If Gadhafi Falls? U.S. Wishes It Knew The United States only renewed ties with Libya a few years ago — and it's scrambling to identify the next power broker there. That is difficult in a country where the same man has been in power for four decades.
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Who'll Fill Void If Gadhafi Falls? U.S. Wishes It Knew

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Who'll Fill Void If Gadhafi Falls? U.S. Wishes It Knew

Who'll Fill Void If Gadhafi Falls? U.S. Wishes It Knew

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

NPR's Jackie Northam has more.

JACKIE NORTHAM: Relations between Washington and the Gadhafi regime have been turbulent over the decades, says Frederic Wehrey, a senior policy analyst at the Rand Corporation who recently returned from Libya.

FREDERIC WEHREY, Host:

You have to remember that relations began really in early 2009 with the opening of the embassy, and they've been quite incremental since then. And much of the evolution of the relationship has been held hostage to Gadhafi's whims.

NORTHAM: Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show that U.S. embassy staff in Tripoli were only beginning to get a grasp of Libya's key players and their allegiances, says Dirk Vandewalle, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth and the author of the book "A History of Modern Libya." Vandewalle says this has hampered U.S. efforts to identify who may emerge as the next leader.

DIRK VANDEWALLE: I don't think the government, the U.S. government, at this point really has a very precise inkling of who is out there. And I just kind of hope that as some of these people come forward, you know, that we're picking the right ones. I think there are lots of opportunities here for, you know, betting on the wrong horse.

NORTHAM: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told NPR the Obama administration is very conscious of the uncertainly that lies beyond Gadhafi's regime.

HILLARY CLINTON: You really don't have anyone emerging. But there is an effort in the east around Benghazi to try to begin putting together what's called an executive council, and we'll be certainly along with others reaching out to them to see how we can help.

NORTHAM: Again, the Rand Corporation's Frederic Wehrey.

WEHREY: He quashed that quite successfully, the general institutions that are needed for normal governance, and especially in a democracy. I mean trade unions, civil society, municipal councils - these were all effectively, you know, abolished or non-existent.

NORTHAM: Dartmouth's Vandewalle says the U.S. could reach out beyond Libya's borders. There are more than 100,000 Libyan exiles living in the U.S., Britain, and other Western nations. Vandewalle says some left in the early 1970s, not long after Gadhafi came to power.

VANDEWALLE: The problem, of course, is that a lot of the figures, because they have been outside of the country for so long, I think no longer really carry either recognition among Libyans or legitimacy, because they've been gone for so long. So we could find some figures, but again, a very, very difficult task, I think.

NORTHAM: Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.

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