The strange story of two electrical engineers from U of Alabama who ran Libya for the past 11 months

Summary:With all the strife in Libya, one story seems to have fallen through the cracks: two electrical engineers who used to teach at the University of Alabama have been in charge of the country for most of the past year.

Perhaps I'm biased, because I went to engineering school, but I've always felt the world would run a lot better if it were run by engineers, rather than lawyers or accountants. Engineers are problem solvers, inventors, and builders so rather than fill the world with countless new laws and regulations, they'd simply focus on paving roads, building bridges, buildings, and rail lines.

When there's trouble and something needs to be built or rebuilt, it's the engineers that are going to get the job done.

Sadly, this theory may be a little more wishful thinking than grounded in history. The only two American presidents who were engineers -- Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter -- didn't exactly distinguish themselves during their presidency for their domestic nation-building skills.

Even so, I still contend that when there's trouble and something needs to be built or rebuilt, it's the engineers that are going to get the job done.

That's why I'm so intrigued by an interview that my Internet Press Guild colleague Steven Cherry conducted last January. He had the opportunity to interview Mustafa Abushagur, who along with Abdurrahim Abdulhafiz El-Keib -- both former University of Alabama electrical engineering professors -- ran Libya for the past 11 months.

Mustafa Abushagur's story is particularly interesting, which is why I'm spotlighting it now, especially in light of the Benghazi attacks in September. It was also in September that Abushagur became the first elected Prime Minister in the history of modern Libya after serving nine months as Deputy Prime Minister.

Unfortunately, he was not able to keep the job. Like all good engineers, he tried to assemble the parts most suited to solving the problem -- cabinet members who could help do the job of rebuilding a torn Libya. He proposed two cabinets to the General National Congress, but when they couldn't agree on his appointments, the GNC voted "no confidence" and removed him from office.

In listening to Steven's interview with Mustafa Abushagur, I'm struck with the bravery of these two men, people who ordinarily I might think of as academic colleagues, who left the comfort of the ivory tower to attempt to rebuild their homeland -- a challenging, and very, very dangerous job.

Topics: Government

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.