How we can avert the nightmare scenario
Libyans have taken to the streets to celebrate the impending end of Muammar al-Qaddafi's forty-two year rule. These celebrations are as understandable as they are premature. The tyrant is leaving, but who or what replaces him remains to be decided.
Washington knows what it wants next in Libya: a stable, preferably democratic government that exercises effective control over all its territory. A politically and economically successful Libya could be a model for the rest of the Arab world.
But success in Libya is not guaranteed. The Libyan rebels agree that Qaddafi had to go. They don't necessarily agree on who or what should replace him. Qaddafi undermined every institution that might threaten his rule, which means that the rebels will be building Libya's new political system from scratch. Tribal, regional, and class divisions could easily derail these efforts.
Libya's Moment of Perilous Change
The Ground Shifts in the Middle East
Signs of Change in Burma
The Eagle Has Landed...In Sinai
The nightmare outcome is a Libya that collapses into anarchy. It would become a breeding ground for criminals and terrorists. Al Qaeda and its affiliates gravitate to countries that have weak, ineffective governments.