The non-war against the Qaddafi regime in Libya continues to languish. Feuding among the rebels that led to the killing of their military commander, Gen. Abdel Fatah Younis, has further put off the day when Moammar Qaddafi will finally have to yield power. It hardly helps that President Obama, after getting the U.S. involved in this conflict, has taken such a laid-back attitude that he seems barely to notice that we are at war at all. Nevertheless the likelihood is that Qaddafi will have to step down sooner or later, and it is important to plan for that day.
Thus it is encouraging to see the rebels’ National Transitional Council drawing up plans for administering a post-Qaddafi state. The key challenge—as it was in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other states were dictatorial regimes were toppled—will be maintaining order. The rebel government will obviously have an important role to play in this task but it is doubtful that it will have sufficient resources, at least not right away. It is therefore incumbent on NATO states that have been waging war on Qaddafi to make plans to send in a stabilization force after he is gone.
The Council on Foreign Relations, where I work, has just released a valuable memo through its Center for Preventative Action by Johns Hopkins University professor Daniel Serwer that calls for “the European Union (EU) to lead an international post-Qaddafi stabilization effort, preferably under a UN umbrella, to facilitate participation by members of the Arab League and the African Union (AU).” It would be great if the EU could in fact take on this mission, although I am less optimistic that Serwer that “a paramilitary police force of up to three thousand personnel” will be sufficient to stabilize a country of 6.4 million people. I would be more comfortable with at least 50,000 peacekeepers (still well short of the 130,000 that would be necessary if one took seriously the counterinsurgency formula of one soldier or cop per 50 civilians), and I have some real doubts as to whether the EU will be able to handle the mission; NATO will undoubtedly need to get involved.
But whatever the origin and numbers of the peacekeepers, the key point is that they need to be ready to go when Qaddafi falls—and for that to happen we need to have more of a public conversation on the subject. Serwer is to be commended for helping to spark some of that discussion.