Tuesday, August 23, 2011
The task is daunting but not hopeless. So far the rebels have done fairly well in policing the cities they have taken over. The fact they participated in the liberation of their country may have helped as there appears to be a sense of responsibility and ownership, something sorely absent in Iraq.In the days ahead, looting – which so tainted the aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 – must be prevented. Diehard supporters of the regime will have to be disarmed or defeated.Tribal war must be averted. Justice and not revenge need to be the order of the day if Libya is not to come to resemble the civil war of post-Saddam Iraq in the first instance, or the chaos and terrorism of Somalia and Yemen.
Most former supporters of the regime should be integrated into the new Libya. Doing so would send a powerful signal to the country and the world that post-Gaddafi Libya will be governed by law and not revenge or whim.All this poses serious challenges to the outside world. The 7,000 sorties flown by Nato aircraft played a central role in the rebel victory. The “humanitarian” intervention introduced to save lives believed to be threatened was, in fact, a political intervention introduced to bring about regime change. Now Nato has to deal with its own success.International assistance, probably including an international force, is likely to be needed for some time to help restore and maintain order. The size and composition of the force will depend on what is requested and welcomed by the Libyan National Transitional Council and what is required by the situation on the ground.President Barack Obama may need to reconsider his assertion that there would not be any American boots on the ground; leadership is hard to assert without a presence.