BENGHAZI – The endgame in the Libyan conflict has at last arrived. Much of Libya’s capital is now in insurgent hands, with the rebel army itself entering from all directions.
The military impotence of forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Qaddafi – visible for a week -- had been matched by the regime’s growing political disarray. Senior Qaddafi cronies were defecting – most recently Deputy Interior Minister Nasser al-Mabrouk Abdullah, who fled to Cairo with nine family members, followed a few days later by Libya’s oil chief, Omran Abukraa. Now a number of Qaddafi’s sons, including Seif al-Islam, his putative heir, have been taken by the rebels. Like Saddam Hussein in 2003, Qaddafi appears to have gone into hiding.
So what, now, will become of post-Qaddafi Libya? Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell famously admonished President George W. Bush before the Iraq War that, “if you break it, you own it.” Bush, however, shrugged off Powell’s warning, and it was not long before the world watched in horror as it became clear that there was no detailed plan to govern or rebuild post-Saddam Iraq. Instead, the country endured a hideous war of all against all that left uncounted thousands dead.
Are the NATO countries that undertook military intervention in Libya better prepared to restore a broken Libya? Fortunately, one building block that was not available to Bush – a legitimate government to assume authority – is available for Libya.