Home/Daniel Larison/No One Wants The Responsibility to Rebuild in Libya

No One Wants The Responsibility to Rebuild in Libya

James Joyner confirms that there appear to be no NATO governments willing to participate in a stabilization mission in Libya:

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.

I agree. This is what makes the apparent lack of U.N. planning for post-war security that much more troubling. As James explains:

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.

Previous interventions in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq have all involved the introduction of significant ground forces by the U.S. and NATO members at some point so that a large U.N. force was not wanted or not needed. Libya is technically different in that it was originally sanctioned by the U.N., but in reality it has always been a project of western European and North American governments. If these governments aren’t going to contribute (and they aren’t), why are others going to volunteer to do what they wouldn’t? Leading governments throughout the developing world have made no secret that they oppose the war, and African Union members might reasonably ask why they should be expected to fill the security void that NATO created. AU objections to the war were ignored and their cease-fire proposals were dismissed. What incentive do they have for putting their soldiers at risk in a dangerous post-war Libya? Perhaps invoking the dangers of regional instability will be enough. Perhaps the major powers can revive the old slogan, “African solutions for African problems.”

While we are discussing post-war Libyan reconstruction, it is worth remembering that this is another area where the Libyan war’s justification under the “responsibility to protect” doctrine breaks down. When it comes to the “responsibility to rebuild,” which as an integral part of the doctrine, no one wants to take responsibility. According to the authors of the doctrine, post-conflict reconstruction planning is a necessity if there is to be a military intervention. In fact, their wording is even stronger than this:

If military intervention is to be contemplated, the need for a post-intervention strategy is also of paramount importance. Military intervention is one instrument in a broader spectrum of tools designed to prevent conflicts and humanitarian emergencies from arising, intensifying, spreading, persisting or recurring. The objective of such a strategy must be to help ensure that the conditions that prompted the military intervention do not repeat themselves or simply resurface.

The Libyan war has been a clear case of taking advantage of the authority that R2P grants without any intention of fulfilling the obligations that it entails. The inherent problem in the R2P doctrine and interventionist policies more broadly is that there is often more than enough political will to use force and very little will to repair the damage afterwards. Despite the belief that the wars in Libya and Iraq are radically different, the near-total lack of preparation for what comes after the war and the vague hope that the international community will pick up the slack are all too similar.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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