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This one paragraph shows just how bad things in Libya have gotten

A Libyan man celebrates the initial NATO intervention in March 2011 by firing a pistol in the air.
A Libyan man celebrates the initial NATO intervention in March 2011 by firing a pistol in the air.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

On Sunday, Libyan militants claiming to represent ISIS released a video in which they beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians. The video is horrifying, which is what makes the truth of this statement even more astonishing: the small ISIS contingent in eastern Libya is in some ways just a symptom of the country's larger problems.

To get a sense of just how bad the situation in Libya is, here is one very absolutely devastating paragraph from Jon Lee Anderson's long dispatch from the country in the New Yorker:

There is no overstating the chaos of post-Qaddafi Libya. Two competing governments claim legitimacy. Armed militias roam the streets. The electricity is frequently out of service, and most business is at a standstill; revenues from oil, the country's greatest asset, have dwindled by more than ninety per cent. Some three thousand people have been killed by fighting in the past year, and nearly a third of the country's population has fled across the border to Tunisia. What has followed the downfall of a tyrant-a downfall encouraged by NATO air strikes-is the tyranny of a dangerous and pervasive instability.

Nearly a third of the country has fled. A third. That's how horrible the post-2011 collapse has been for Libya's citizens. You see that chaos play out in many ways: the collapse in central governance, the rising extremism, the militia alliance controlling much of the country's west, the army run by General Khalifa Hifter entrenched in the east, and the fighting that continues to kill so many. A number of Libyans are trying bravely to bring order to their country, but there is little hope on the horizon.

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