Beyond NATO’s Libyan Redemption

While NATO probably will not want to replicate its Libya intervention anytime soon, it appears that the alliance, with a little help from its friends, has prevailed in Libya. But, if we learned anything from Iraq and Afghanistan, it is that a few years of politics, or institutional rebuilding, does not trump centuries of culture.

SINGAPORE – While NATO probably will not want to replicate its Libya intervention anywhere else anytime soon, it appears that the alliance, with a little help from its friends, has prevailed in Libya, succeeding in toppling Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. This is a good moment for NATO, but one that evokes more a sense of relief than of celebration.

Given the mismatch of member states’ policy (topple Qaddafi) and a strategy to “protect civilians” based on a contested United Nations Security Council resolution, NATO can certainly take pride in managing a great challenge and strengthening its role as the preeminent Euro-Atlantic institution.

Now, however, comes the really hard part. Libya was not a smoothly operating country before the civil war started six months ago; today, it is thoroughly broken and will require an enormous amount of rebuilding – post-conflict operations, or “stability ops,” to use the current jargon. Libya’s needs run the gamut of challenges faced by countries in transition: governance, institutional capacity building, economic reform, and security.

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