Commentary Magazine


What Happens After Qaddafi?

Daniel Byman, author of a fine new history of Israeli counterterrorism (“A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism”), has an oped in the Financial Times today warning of the perils facing post-Qaddafi Libya:

The country has strong tribal identities and no tradition of democracy. Col Qaddafi’s divide-and-rule policies further set Libyans against one another. Institutions such as the judiciary, media and civil society are weak or non-existent. Libya’s oil wealth is an invitation to corruption. All of this is a recipe for conflict or government collapse, not for a transition to democracy.

All true, which is why I find Byman’s proposed solutions so inadequate. He writes:

We badly need to learn more about the key players. We can provide political and financial support to democratic forces there only if we know who they are. Military training is important, too, not only to help the rebels win but to create a more unified, professional structure, which will help maintain stability once Col. Qaddafi has gone. …. Western powers control billions in Libyan assets held outside the country, which can be channelled to the opposition in exchange for its developing democratic institutions.

Nothing wrong with any of this. I support doing exactly what he says. But I am puzzled by the omission of a stabilization force. Given the risks of chaos, it makes sense for NATO, along with the UN, the African Union, and the Arab League, to plan to deploy a substantial peacekeeping force to Libya after Qaddafi’s fall to prevent violence and give the transitional government a chance to assert its authority. This should not require a large commitment of U.S. troops, but some may be needed along with forces from our allies.

We need to make plans for such a stabilization force now–not when it’s already needed. We have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. I am concerned this is not the case today. Which is all the more reason to worry about what happens after Qaddafi is gone.

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