Scant Planning for Post-Qaddafi Libya

Will a post-Qaddafi Libya break out into an extended civil war, as post-Saddam Iraq did? One obviously hopes not. But a recent Columbia University study found a 43 percent probability of a country relapsing into civil war following a successful anti-dictatorship armed campaign -- and only a three percent likelihood of democratic transition. So, it would be wise to prepare for substantial security operations lasting some time.

For that matter, Stephen Walt has noted, we're still in Kosovo a decade after NATO's win there -- well after post-conflict score settling was ended.

While NATO isn't planning on leading reconstruction in Libya after Qaddafi leaves, some of its leading players apparently are. The UK's Department for International Development has been thinking about the problem for some time now and reportedly submitted the outlines of a reconstruction plan to Libyan rebel leaders in late June. But William Hague, the foreign secretary, characterized planning as "embryonic."

Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, has insisted that the stabilization process "must be Libyan-owned and United Nations-led."

Though NATO's intervention in Libya was authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1973, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been virtually silent on the mission. He's certainly expressed no interest in post-conflict reconstruction. Abdul Elah al-Khatib, the UN special envoy to Libya, has made numerous trips. But all his public statements indicate that his efforts have so far been devoted strictly to achieving a settlement to end the current fighting. If there's been any planning for post-conflict reconstruction, it has been quiet.

The European Union, after two days of meetings members of the rebel Transitional National Council,  offered to help organize elections and set up state institutions. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barrosso pledged to assist in setting up a new judiciary, free media, and civil society and is in final negotiations for helping finance security reforms. Already, the EU has given $200 million in humanitarian aid.

Multiple fiscal crises notwithstanding, the European Union is wealthy. But money won't be enough if post-conflict Libya requires peacekeepers on the ground, as it might. Some significant military presence may well be required for the indefinite future to enforce a cease-fire, prevent sectarian violence, looting, revenge killings, and any of the other myriad problems that tend to emerge after armed conflict.

Yet, for all the UK's foresight in planning, they have been steadfast in declaring that they will not participate in any peacekeeping force, with Mitchell reiterating that there will be no British boots on the ground. The Obama administration has said the same for America. This rules out, therefore, the two most significant military powers in NATO.

After a decade of war and overseas occupation, this reluctance is understandable. Additionally, while happy to have Western help in the fight against Qaddafi, the Libyans are likely to come to resent any long-term presence of European forces in their country.

Putting a different face on the post-conflict stabilization efforts would be ideal, then, even if Western nations have to pay for it. The obvious candidates are the United Nations and the African Union, both of which have extensive experience in peacekeeping missions and would come without imperialist baggage.

Peacekeeping, of course, requires that there be a peace to keep. As the ongoing UN missions in Liberia and Ivory Coast demonstrate, blue helmets are not a panacea. If the mere presence of trained outside security forces is insufficient to prevent the outbreak of sectarian fighting, the peacekeepers then get caught in the crossfire. If they choose sides and shift into kinetic operations -- for which they tend to be ill-equipped to begin with -- they can often lose their legitimacy.

In theory, this would all have been worked out before NATO intervened, thus taking ownership of the outcome. And it's possible that someone, somewhere planned all this out. But, if they did, they've been awfully quiet about it.

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James Joyner is an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council.

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