In Exit the Colonel, Ethan Chorin, a longtime Middle East scholar and one of the first American diplomats posted to Libya after the lifting of international sanctions, goes well beyond recent reporting on the Arab Spring to link the Libyan uprising to a flawed reform process, egregious human rights abuses, regional disparities, and inconsistent stories spun by Libya and the West to justify the Gaddafi regime's "rehabilitation." Exit the Colonel is based upon extensive interviews with senior US, EU, and Libyan officials, and with rebels and loyalists; a deep reading of local and international media; and significant on-the-ground experience pre- and post-revolution.
The book provides rare and often startling glimpses into the strategies and machinations that brought Gaddafi in from the cold, while encouraging ordinary Libyans to "break the barrier of fear." Chorin also assesses the possibilities and perils for Libya going forward, politically and economically.
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About the Author
Ethan Chorin was U.S. economic/commercial attaché in Tripoli from 2004-2006. He has continued to work on Libyan issues as business developer for a multinational company based in Dubai and as cofounder of the Avicenna Group, an NGO helping to build a trauma center in Benghazi. The author of Translating Libya: The Modern Libyan Short Story, he is currently a Social Enterprise Fellow at the Yale School of Management. He lives in Berkeley, California.
Table of Contents
Map of Libya viii
Part I The Making of Trouble
1 Libya's Lot 13
2 Threats and Adaptations 31
3 The Price Is Right 59
Part II Gates Open
4 The Americans Return 83
5 The Great Makeover 113
6 Unfinished Business 131
7 Cracks Apparent 147
8 On the Eve of Revolution 167
Part III Fitna (Chaos)
9 Benghazi: The First Five Days 187
10 The Debate over Intervention 209
11 Stalemate Looms 233
Part IV Reconciliation and Reconstruction
12 The End and a Beginning 253
13 Assessment 267
14 Toward the Precipice 285
Conclusion: The Weight of the Past 305
What People are Saying About This
Dirk Vandewalle, professor of government at Dartmouth College and author of A History of Modern Libya
"Of all the accounts written so far about Libya's revolution, none can match Chorin's sophisticated and penetrating analysis of the country and of its former quixotic ruler. An insider's account, Exit the Colonel details the events leading up to the revolution, and reveals the larger context within which Libya's uprising eventually took shape. Relying on an unmatched variety of sources and on extensive in-country experience, Chorin's book will undoubtedly remain the best analytical work on Libya and its revolution for a very long time."
Retired Ambassador Joseph Wilson, author of The Politics of Truth
“Ethan Chorin brings a unique perspective to his riveting tale of the rise and fall of Muammar Gaddafi: Exit the Colonel. Having served as a diplomat in Tripoli at the time of Gaddafi rapprochement with the West, Chorin tells the story of how the West wound up allied to the ‘mad dog of the Middle East’ and facilitated Gaddafi's rehabilitation, which was key to his fall. This is an exquisite and scary story of greed, intrigue, and political corruption at the highest levels of several nations, including the US and the UK. For anybody interested in international relations, or for anybody whose paths, like mine, crossed Gaddafi's several times, this is a must-read."
The National“What caused such radical policy changes in the region? This is the intriguing question the Middle East scholar Ethan Chorin tackles in his detail-rich book Exit the Colonel.”
Libya Index “A concise analysis of past, present and future effects of Gaddafi’s regime.”
Shepherd Express (Milwaukee)“Chorin offers a plausible portrait of the capricious, violent ruler who improved the lives of his people before veering on an unstable course of brutal repression, insane economics and global provocation.”
Boston Globe“The best recent book, I think, to go beyond the cult of personality to the traumatized but brave Libyans themselves… He met many countrymen, learned much, and all this adds grit and gravitas to his later ‘Exit the Colonel.’ I felt especially enlightened, for instance, by his coverage of the country’s east-west split.”
Journal of North African Studies“Organised chronologically, Chorin combines diplomatic memoir, political history and shrewd analysis to offer what is arguably the most detailed account to date of the regime’s final years… Chorin’s account is highly informative, his observations are sensible, and his diplomatic experiences are fascinating. ..This book sheds unveils the workings of the regime during its final years, and reveals its internal tensions and power struggles (particularly among his sons), reforms and brutalities, and western sycophancy in equal measure. Even for Libya specialists, it is highly informative and provides what is thus far the definitive account of the West’s reconciliation with and re-alienation from the regime and provides immediate context to its downfall.”
“Exit the Colonel: The Hidden History of the Libyan Revolution is a timely, if rushed, affair…For me, it is Gadhafi’s erstwhile rehabilitation that is the most intriguing part of the book.”
Middle East“This book demonstrates how Gaddafi was soon to reap the whirlwind, as his feints toward reform actually engendered a revolutionary movement that proved all too real and powerful to be put down. Ethan Chorin provides a look into the near and long-term roots of the Libyan uprising and explains why the revolution happened as it did before exploring the longer-term consequences for Libya and the West.”
International Affairs“The information taken from personal interviews with key Libyan and non-Libyan players occasionally provides new insight and fresh perspective to policies and events in this period… Chorin provides the most authoritative and detailed analysis of the February 17 Revolution published to date.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
After my review of Tamim Ansary’s [b]Games without Rules: The Often-Interrupted History of Afghanistan[/b] (If you haven’t read it yet, you really, really must-it was my number two nonfiction book for 2012.), the publisher gave me the opportunity to review this work on Libya. One would think that given the amount of media attention that Libya gets there would be a plethora of books on the subject, but as I began this book I realized that despite having read well in excess of a hundred books over the years on the Middle East and political Islam, a good history of Libya had slipped through the cracks of my reading list. Ethan Chorin explained why. Western journalists had always been rather thin on the ground in Libya during the Gaddafi regime, and therefore, modern histories of Libya are a very new literary phenomenon-literally since the fall of Gaddafi. Chorin’s book, which came out in late October of 2012, and covers material he gathered as late as that summer, gives some of the most up-to-date information that readers can find in book form. There are other books out there that will give you a more comprehensive history of Libya-that is not his intent. Chorin does give some history-essentially what you need to know to understand how Gaddafi was able to maneuver himself into power from a cultural standpoint. He does an excellent job explaining the duality of Libya as a country, the divisiveness that those of the eastern half and those of the western half have always felt towards one another, and the powerful effect that this has in her politics (not to mention her soccer matches-we are not talking friendly rivalries here!) Obviously, politics plays a huge part in this book, and there is a massive cast of players; I would dearly love a roster at the front of the book listing them all. That said, mine is a pre-publication manuscript, so it is possible that one was added at publication time. A good deal of ink is spread detailing the role not only of Gaddafi, but also of his second eldest son, Saif al-Islam, who was believed by many to be the son whom Gaddafi most wanted to succeed him in power. In addition, many power brokers on the Libyan, U.S., and European fronts are discussed. If you don’t know about Gaddafi’s dealings with Tony Blair and Nicolas Sarkozy, this book will be rather enlightening for you. Mr. Chorin briefly explains the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, which inspired the Libyan rebellion that finally brought down Gaddafi after forty-two years in power. He then goes on to cover about seven months after the fall of Gaddafi in October of 2011, and so the book includes the first faltering steps of the Transitional National Council. One area in which this book really shines is tracing Libya’s economic journey, both before Gaddafi, through his regime, and after. Ethan Chorin has excellent sources, both inside Libya and outside, and he shows how Libya affects and is affected by global trade. It is interesting to note that in Libya, unlike in Afghanistan and many other countries where the United States and her allies are involved in trying to assist in establishing democratic governments and stabilizing economies in the wake of civil unrest, we are dealing with a country that is well able to pay her own way, as Libya is very rich in natural resources and has the know-how and infrastructure in place to exploit them. My one major quibble with this book, and the factor which kept it from earning a fifth star has to do with a writing and not a research element, which bothers me to no end, because I feel like it could have been solved so simply. This book makes the most ridiculous overuse of acronyms I have ever encountered. To the point that it renders the book almost unreadable. I quite literally had to begin a crib sheet that I kept in the cover of my e-reader, because I could not remember them all. These are not the acronyms that we all know, such as WMD for weapons of mass destruction-some of these were obscure acronyms for organizations that the average reader of this book is not going to have in their working vocabulary. And the acronym was not just used several times within close proximity of each other; several chapters later an acronym might pop up again-one time out of the blue. Without my crib sheet I would have been lost. Seriously? Would it really have been that difficult to type out the words? It drove me crazy, and it was so unnecessary because simply typing out the unfamiliar names would not have been overly repetitive, as the list of acronyms was MASSIVE. It almost felt like the author put in all the acronyms during his research process, as a form of short-hand, and then in the editing process everyone neglected to go in and write them out for the reader. Or failing that, at least give the reader a list at the beginning of the book with all the acronyms and their interpretations. So, reader, just be aware from the beginning, unless you have a prodigious memory for acronyms, I highly recommend making a list as you go along. I must say, this is the oddest reason I have ever withheld a star from such an excellently researched and written book! On a more positive note-you needn’t take my word on the merits of this work-Professor Dirk Vandewalle, unarguably the most highly respected scholar regarding Libya, and a professor of government at Dartmouth, says of Chorin’s work, “Chorin's book will undoubtedly remain the best analytical work on Libya and its revolution for a very long time.” Coincidentally, there is a first rate article written by Professor Vandewalle and published in the November/December 2012 issue of [i]Foreign Affairs[/i] magazine, entitled “After Qaddafi: The Surprising Success of the New Libya”; it makes the perfect epilog to Ethan Chorin’s book. On the advice of both Professor Vandewalle (you cannot get better than his, really!), and my own feelings from my reading, I recommend this one to serious readers of nonfiction political history.