Over at The Week, Dr. Daniel Larison brings up the situation of a state called Libya. One year ago the West led a bombing campaign that ousted the brutal dictator Moammar Ghaddafi. A problem or two arose though:
The internal disorder and regional instability that the West’s assault created were foreseen by many critics. And yet, Western governments made no meaningful efforts to prepare for them. No one planned to stabilize Libya once Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown, and the National Transitional Council (NTC) rejected the idea of an outside stabilization force […]
The NTC Larison speaks of is, of course, the entity that the West has blessed with steering the Libyan state’s course to democratic paradise. Think here of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. It gets worse too:
Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of abuse and torture of detainees by local militias, and there have been many reports of reprisals against civilians living in perceived pro-Gadhafi areas. Militia rule is made possible by the weakness of the NTC, which never had real control over armed rebel forces during the war, and still does not. Plus, the council’s opacity and corruption have been rapidly de-legitimizing it in the eyes of Libyans […]
The continued role of militias in Libyan political life represents a serious threat to Libya’s political transition. There is also significant risk of renewed fighting in Libya: A survey of Libyan political attitudes found that 16 percent said they would resort to violence for political ends.
But the Libyan war’s worst impact may have occurred outside of Libya. The neighboring country of Mali, which also happens to support U.S. counter-terrorist efforts in western Africa, has been roiled by a new Tuareg insurgency fueled by the influx of men and weapons after Gadhafi’s defeat, providing the Tuareg rebels with much more sophisticated weaponry than they had before. This new upheaval benefits al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), and the Tuareg uprising threatens the territorial integrity of Mali. The rebellion has also displaced nearly 200,000 civilians in a region that is already at risk of famine, and refugees from Mali are beginning to strain local resources in Niger, where most of them have fled. “Success” in Libya is creating a political and humanitarian disaster in Mali and Niger.
Larison’s silver lining in all of this is found when he starts to sing the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine’s swan song:
A key requirement of the “responsibility to protect” is that intervening governments assume the “responsibility to rebuild” in the wake of military action, but this was a responsibility that the intervening governments never wanted and haven’t accepted. All of this has proven to skeptical governments, including emerging democratic powers such as Brazil and India, that the doctrine can and will be abused to legitimize military intervention while ignoring its other requirements. The Libyan experience has soured many major governments around the world on R2P, and without their support in the future, it will become little more than a façade for the preferred policies of Western governments.
I sure wish R2P would die a brutal death, but I refuse to bet on it anytime soon. I would be broke very quickly! Larison misses something big in his argument though. He reports:
Libya is now effectively ruled by the militias that ousted Gadhafi, and some militias run parts of the country as their own fiefdoms independent of any national authority. The most powerful militias in the western cities of Zintan and Misrata have refused the government’s calls to disarm. These militias believe that remaining armed allows them to retain political influence in the new order that they fought to create.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the West could help to turn this disaster into something quite worthwhile: build an international consensus and recognize the independence of the fiefdoms. If the West does this now, there is a good chance that local players will be more agreeable in their claims on territory. To secure independence from a Leviathan like Libya would guarantee a period of time for the local fiefdoms to regroup and rebuild what Ghaddafi had destroyed.
A parallel can be drawn to the velvet divorce of the Czech Republic and Slovakia just after the collapse of the USSR. What made the divorce “velvet” was international cooperation. When the international community doesn’t play the game smart, however, divorces look more like Algeria, Indonesia, the Congo basin, the Balkans, and, of course, Somalia.
If the West is to “do something”, and I think it should in most cases, then pursuing diplomatic relations that focus on decentralized governance and international trade are a good way to start.