Eager to intervene, NATO has been less enthusiastic about figuring out what happens next
If NATO has a plan for achieving victory in Libya, it has been well disguised. Regardless, the world's most powerful military alliance will surely somehow, some day prevail over a besieged dictator with little support. But is NATO prepared for what happens when they win?
Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen took to Twitter last week to proclaim, "Once political settlement is reached, I don't expect NATO to play leading role" and "Future to be shaped by Libyan people. NATO will support international efforts if requested and needed."
The United States has joined more than 30 countries in recognizing the rebel Transitional National Council as Libya's legitimate government. So, unlike in Iraq eight years ago, there is a group in place over which to turn nominal control once the regime is deposed. But simply declaring a new government does not mean that it can run the country.
As Center for a New American Security fellow Andrew Exum observed at the outset of operations, post-Qaddafi Libya will be an exercise in "starting from scratch." The former Italian colonial rulers destroyed most pre-existing institutions while studiously avoiding creating new ones. "The Italian governors of Libya systematically undermined the old Ottoman administration, which they viewed as a threat. Qaddafi, incredibly, managed to make things worse. Suspicious of the very idea of the Libyan state, he denied such a state was necessary and undermined any attempt to create functioning bureaucracies."