Home/Daniel Larison/Years, Not Decades! (II)

Years, Not Decades! (II)

In what could hardly have been music to NATO’s ears, the 50 government and think-tank experts also concluded that while “change” will come to Libya in the form of Qaddafi’s departure from power, it could take as long as two to three years for that to happen. (NATO’s last public estimate several weeks ago was that Qaddafi would be out before October.)

The CFR’s Danin says the prospects for a drawn-out war to oust Qaddafi, coupled with the lack of standing institutions that a new government like the TNC will be able to count on, means the international community is engaged in Libya for some time to come.

“All the problems we’re seeing now are further reminder that even when Qaddafi goes, we won’t be able to just pick up and leave,” he says. “To some extent, the international community has committed to nation-building in Libya [bold mine-DL].”

And while the approach President Obama has taken means the US is less engaged than the British and French, Danin says the US will still be on the hook once Qaddafi goes.

“No one should have the illusion that we [the US] aren’t in this,” he say. “We are.” ~The Christian Science Monitor

The L.A. Timesreport reminds us that “the international community” has done no such thing:

Most of the world’s governments still recognize Kadafi as Libya’s legitimate ruler, and he still has an extensive diplomatic corps looking after his interests.

The international consensus in support of the Libyan intervention has been exaggerated from the beginning, and the obligations of the “international community” in Libya are those of U.S. and allied governments. If a majority of the “international community” agrees on anything, it is that there should be a cease-fire and a negotiated settlement in Libya. There is no interest in indefinitely policing a Libyan civil war.

Once the intervening governments made clear that they intended to overthrow Gaddafi, the war exceeded the mandate provided by the U.N. At that point, Libya became the responsibility of the U.S. and its allies, but this is a responsibility the intervening governments don’t want and apparently won’t assume. It would be most unwise for a U.S.-European force to occupy Libya, but there is no incentive for governments that were openly opposed to regime change to take up the burden of post-war security and reconstruction. The intervening governments have been expecting someone else to take over for them when the war ends, which is why there has been essentially no planning for post-war stabilization, but no other institution or group of governments is moving to fill the vacuum. Libya is a ward that no one wants.

As far as most governments around the world are concerned, the states that have obligations to rebuild Libya after the war are the ones fighting the war against Gaddafi. Those states have already stated publicly that this isn’t going to happen, and their electorates would be very unhappy with acquiring yet another country as a ward. Antipathy towards “nation-building” in the U.S. is strong, and it will be even stronger where Libya is concerned. Americans wanted the U.S. to stay out of Libya, and their support for the minimal U.S. role in the war has been anemic at best. The official administration line has been that the U.S. role was minor, the U.S. was not engaged in hostilities, and regime change was not the goal. It doesn’t matter that all of this was untrue. It will be impossible for the administration to come back to the public and Congress and say that the U.S. must help secure Libya after the toppling of Gaddafi as a result of the war the U.S. just fought. Danin is right that “we” are stuck with the aftermath in Libya, but “we” (i.e., the public and Congress) never consented to this and won’t accept it.

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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