Beyond NATO’s Libyan Redemption

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.

As in most post-conflict countries, effective and legitimate leadership will prove hard to come by. The National Transitional Council, the governing body established in February by the various rebel groups, has functioned fairly well, given the mammoth centrifugal forces and other pressures at work. But the skills needed for leadership of a wartime governing council are very different from those needed to run a sovereign state.