Belatedly, the attacks have stirred the new authorities to assert their presence. Government forces hastily cobbled together constructed a buffer in both the West and South, maintaining ceasefires that have more or less held. But it remains unclear whether the forces' numbers are sufficient to prevent the cultural battles spreading across Libya, or into neighboring states. Rebels without a cause have travelled from the coast to join the fray, heightening tensions. Flush with Libya's weapons, the Tuareg--or desert Amazigh--have already carved out their own homeland, Azawad, in northern Mali. Gun markets have surfaced in southern Tunisia, and Sinai's Bedouin careen along mountain tracks with formerly Libyan anti-aircraft guns mounted on Nissan trucks. Libya's own turmoil could yet acquire continental proportions.
The Libyan government can still celebrate noted successes in comparison to Iraq in the wake of the US invasion. It has wrested most of the country's ports and airports back from the rebels, maintained the civil service and established the rudiments of a security force. It quickly restored utilities and oil flows, opened the airport to international flights, and hosted its first oil conferences. It has so far kept at bay the West's own jihadis, those veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq's private security companies who had come to Libya seeking rich pickings. And elections, if they happen, may yet provide the panacea to win popular backing for the new order and legitimize civilians at the expense of the militiamen, who unfettered will create havoc. But with such riches to distribute amongst such a small population, the vultures are many. Standing up a central authority will require greater resolve, inclusion and transparency than the would-be authorities have displayed to date.