Stabilizing Libya

The Libyan intervention labeled as president Obama’s first war may not end soon. Regardless of this advocates of this intervention should start planning for Libya’s reconstruction in post-Qaddafi period. Although Qaddafi’s removal is not mandated by UN resolution 1973, it is implied that he will not be in charge of the country once the decision of no-fly zone over Libya is fully implemented and the rebels gain control of Tripoli. The rebel advance in East Libya signals that with sustained international backing the opponents of Qaddafi will emerge winners.

It is not ascertained whether the authorization provided by resolution 1973 to take military action against Libya to enforce a no-fly zone over the country is in conformity with UN Charter. The critics with expertise in international law have argued that an exception to interference in a state’s internal affairs is justified only if the cause of military action is international threat. The use of force has generally proved contentious like in Kosovo, Iraq and elsewhere and such criticism will likely continue.

Furthermore, president Obama has been accused of overstepping the U.S. Congress in handling the crisis in Libya where a group of analysts have insisted that he should have obtained approval from the legislature before agreeing to enforce air-exclusion zone over Libya. To them implementing UN resolution 1973 is similar to waging a war against Libya as the latter has been facing air strikes to make it compliant with the UN mandate.

It is not at all worth-debating whether the international community having endorsed Libya’s intervention can shy away from an obligation to prepare for the reconstruction of the country in post-conflict situation. Those who have taken the lead in imposing a no-fly zone over the Libyan skies should also feel obliged to allocate resources for rebuilding the country once things settle down.

Useful lessons from ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq deserve consideration. Larry Diamond, a leading advocate of international intervention, has said that the most directly relevant lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan is “security trumps everything”. He has emphasized the role of ‘democratic policing’ in Libya where pro-Qaddafi and his opponent groups will likely engage in violence as the war prolongs. The U.S. is forced to learn painful lessons about the limits of its credibility in the Arab and the Muslim world. No less obvious examples are Yemen and Bahrain, where uprising has started for political freedom but America seems least bothered there because status quo better serves its national interests.

In keeping demonstrable silence about events taking place in other Arab League members, particularly Yemen and Bahrain the Obama administration is seen behaving like a hypocrite. This has noticeable reverberence in what Nicholas D. Kristof, a noted journalist who frequently writes 0p-Ed articles for a popular newspaper like The New York Times has recently stated. With regard to the Libyan intervention he has been quoted as saying that countries embrace intervention when they can make. Probably, his observation is attributed to the decision of the American administration in endorsing a resolution of UN Security Council sanctioning military action against Libya in the name of preventing humanitarian catastrophe.

Regarding Obama’s approval of a no-fly zone over Libya some critics have noted that his justification for intervention on account of avoiding mass killing of Libyans by Colonel Qaddafi sounds hollow compared to other atrocities committed in Africa. Had the U.S. been as sensitive as it has been to Libyan crisis it should have intervened in many other countries where the population has been subjected to violence. Such allegation is not wholly unfounded if the 1994 Rwandan genocide and international community’s  feeble response to halt that carnage is recalled from the recent history. No western power felt moral pressure to intervene in Rwanda where about a million people died in civil war only because these proponents of humanitarian intervention did not find their vital national interests at stake.

This credibility crisis is likely to restrict the chances of the U.S taking charge of Libya’s rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of the intervention. The UN–led reconstruction endeavors are success and this makes the international organization a credible mechanism to advance the agenda of rebuilding Libya whenever opportune time comes. According to James Dobbes of RAND Corp. such efforts have proved cost effective undertaken under the tutelage of the UN. The world body’s pioneering role of facilitating smooth transition of Libya in 1951 following the end of colonialism of Italy also lends credence to his observation. The huge task of rebuilding Cambodia in the early 1990s, where the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) played a constructive role in facilitating political transition, was undertaken quite successfully.

The experience in Iraq and Afghanistan underscore the need for advance planning of political reconstruction once fighting stops in Libya. War’s end does not necessarily establish peace and stability and to achieve such nobler objectives, careful planning of post-conflict situation is imperative. Commenting on Libya’s case Lisa Anderson, President of American University in Cairo, has suggested that “Any military and diplomatic intervention that will bring an end to the Qaddafi regime should be accompanied, from the beginning, by the mobilization of the resources for political reconstruction”.

Some people have even demanded that there would be a need for North African Marshall Plan to help the countries like Tunisia, Egypt which are in transition to democracy and lately Libya where prospective reconstruction is inevitable after guns go silent. Democratic changes are for empowering the population and political dividends need economic succor to endure. Therefore, the UN should mobilize the resourceful members of the organization and start planning for undertaking rebuilding efforts so that post-conflict situation in Libya gets stabilized sooner rather than later.

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