Monday, August 22, 2011

A Complicated Libya Transition

As Gaddafi's regime ends (as now it is a mop-up exercise), "the world" must begin thinking hard about how to help Libya transition over to a functional, democratic government--and what the effect on the region will be.

The short version:
-The rebels are deeply divided about the direction they want to take post-Gaddafi.
-Gaddafi still has supporters in Sirte and other parts of Western Libya that will fear reprisals and marginalization. The rebels will struggle to bring them into the regime.
-It's unclear how much of the civil service infrastructure will be left; that is, will the civil servants that made the cogs turn pre-war keep working?

This is a great opportunity for the West to learn from its mistakes in Afghanistan and Iraq to make the transition to a new regime smoother. Mistakes not to repeat:
-Marginalizing the "old guard." They must have a reasonable place in the new regime, or they'll resist it.
-Don't declare victory too soon.
-Take a more hands-off approach: the National Transitional Council (NTC) will lose credibility if it looks like a puppet.

We'll see what the West can do. Luckily, the folks in Benghazi currently love the US to bits, so Obama has an opportunity to lead this transition well, and win back some legitimacy for the United States as a world leader.
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