It’s over. The autocratic rule of Moammar Gadhafi ended yesterday with his capture and death in his home town of Sirte. Some will argue that after the fall of their ruthless leader, the people of Libya will now be free to be at peace with each other. If we simply provide them with diplomatic aid and sustained civil support, the people of Libya shall be able to build, essentially from scratch, the necessary economic, political and physical infrastructure to move toward inclusion and — one day — the ability to flourish in the international system.
We must ignore the diplomatic planners who believe that through these mechanisms the United States can and should influence the direction of the nation’s future. We must ignore the cries of the nation-builders motivated by a desire for the democratization of Libya in the image and likeness of a Western state. The Unites States’ involvement in this quagmire must come to an end.
On the one hand, that need stems from the notion that the United States never should have entered the conflict in the first place. First, our interests in the region are limited, if there are any at all beyond the motivation to protect the interests of our allies. Second, it was, at the very least, constitutionally questionable for the Obama administration to deploy troops absent of the consent of Congress; the rationale was that it was legal because this was not “war” but “hostilities.” Finally, the irony grows bitterer each day as news of Syrian civilian death tolls rise and similar humanitarian concerns prompt limited to no action on the part of the United States.
On the other hand, the post-Gadhafi Libya will not be a pleasant place for a very long time. Is the United States truly ready to commit its resources (military or otherwise) to a nation that will likely remain in a state of civil war for the foreseeable future? Continual mismanagement of the nation by the National Transitional Council and the frenzied and unruly capture and killing of Gadhafi do not bode well. Forces loyal to the ousted leader will likely continue to battle against NTC forces, and infighting amongst those who united to topple the ruler will surely break out as differing visions for post-Gadhafi Libya emerge.
Even if not militarily involved, if the United States says that it shall be in the so-called business of advising and being diplomatically available to certain factions that we favor over others, are we not again in the process of choosing the winners? Will this not lead to louder cries of imperialist manipulation of the regions’ affairs by Arab onlookers? What are the nation’s real interests in acting in this manner?
The answer is that there are none. In terms of practical, base interests in the region, it is understandable that the European Union might continue to act to ensure that oil and gas it depends upon in the region are not threatened. The United States, though, need not and must not pursue a similar course.
So what, then, should be our role? Should we turn a blind eye on Libya? Not completely. Uncertainty over the leadership of Libya will likely, as David Serwer argues in his Council on Foreign Relations memo on post-Gadhafi Libya, “erode the public order and threaten the provision of basic goods and services to the region.” The humanitarian disaster that could arise from such a scenario is one the United States should leave itself open to dealing with by administering aid or facilitating NGO work in the region. However, direct U.S. involvement should end as surely as Gadhafi’s regime has today.
Nelson Madubuonwu is a junior in Berkeley College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.