News that two of many militias in Libya have recently clashed, leaving a number of people dead, confirms the huge dangers that face the post-Qaddafi state. As I’ve repeatedly said before, our job is not done with the ouster of Qaddafi; it will be a hollow victory indeed if a durable, liberal democracy cannot be built in Libya–if, instead, Libya’s war were to devolve into civil war it would be nothing short of a tragedy. And a readily preventable tragedy at that.
Experience has shown that most post-conflict states (Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, Germany, Italy, South Korea, etc.) require a long-term international troop presence to ensure a peaceful resolution of recently unleashed enmities. Those states where the troop presence has been missing or inadequate (see e.g., Congo, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan) have paid a terrible price. Maybe Libya will be the exception to the rule; I hope so. But hope isn’t a policy.
Since NATO states seem to have ruled out sending peacekeepers, and Libya’s leaders haven’t asked for them, at the very least the U.S. and its allies need to do all they can to help stand up security forces reporting to the state that will be able to curb the dangerous power of the militias. NATO should send a substantial training mission to Libya ASAP to help fill a dangerous void. There is still a window of opportunity to ensure Libya’s post-war future, but if we wait too long, the situation could spin out of control.