April 15, 2011

From the Dept. of Easier Said Than Done

From the U.S. and French presidents and the British Prime Minister:

...so long as Qaddafi is in power, NATO must maintain its operations so
that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds.
Then a genuine transition from dictatorship to an inclusive
constitutional process can really begin, led by a new generation of
leaders. In order for that transition to succeed, Qaddafi must go and go
for good. At that point, the United Nations and its members should help
the Libyan people as they rebuild where Qaddafi has destroyed — to
repair homes and hospitals, to restore basic utilities, and to assist
Libyans as they develop the institutions to underpin a prosperous and
open society.

For all reasons I talked about here, Libya will be an absolute nightmare to rebuild -- and I hesitate to even use that word to describe the task at hand. There has been no real bureaucracy in Libya since the end of Ottoman rule, so there is no effective way to redistribute the resources of the state. On the one hand, I do not feel the United States should be anywhere near the stabilization operations and reconstruction that must follow the end of the Gadhafi regime -- this is a job better left for the states of Europe and the Arabic-speaking world, and most especially relatively disinterested international organizations like the World Bank and other U.N. bodies. On the other hand, though, the United States can very much help the rest of the international community begin to think through what "Phase IV" in Libya looks like. Specifically, the Obama Administration can begin by assembling an outside group of experts in both Libya and stabilization operations to sit down in a room together for a week and help the administration to think through issues related to state formation in post-Gadhafi Libya. Whatever principles and issues they come up with can then help guide the discussion of the international community.

Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron are wrong that a continued civil war is what will lead to a failed state in Libya. A failed state in Libya will most likely be the result of the international community thinking the war ends when Gadhafi leaves.

[If you do not have the time to read her book, read Lisa Anderson's latest op-ed in al-Ahram on this subject.]