What happens after Gadhafi?
August 21st, 2011
10:14 PM ET

What happens after Gadhafi?

Editor's Note: Moammar Gadhafi's final hours seem to be upon him.  But what happens when he is captured or killed? CFR’s Center for Preventive Action asked Daniel Serwer, a professor at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies and a scholar at the Middle East Institute, to think through the challenges that a post-Gadhafi Libya would pose for the United States and its allies. Dan’s complete report is here.  Below is a summary of that report, reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.

By Dan Serwer, CFR.org

After Gadhafi, the first challenge will be security. Failure to maintain public order is what got us into big trouble in Iraq, where Saddam Hussein’s “stay behind” operation stirred civic unrest and destroyed government buildings.

The murder in Libya last month of the overall rebel commander is a reminder that internecine warfare among the more than forty-five rebel militias is a real possibility.

People who lost family and tribal members to the Gadhafi regime may seek to settle scores. Former regime elements may seek to defend themselves and to “privatize” state assets. Criminals will see opportunities to traffic in arms, drugs and even people.

The humanitarian challenges will be no less daunting. Fighting has displaced at least half a million Libyans from their homes. Perhaps half of those are still in Libya, and many who are not will seek to return quickly once Gadhafi falls.

Food, water, shelter and health services need to be secured for the most vulnerable. In addition, keeping water and electricity flowing to the residents of Tripoli and other major urban centers will be vital to maintaining public order.

U.S. interests in Libya are limited, but a relatively successful transition from the Gadhafi regime to a united, stable, more open and democratic Libya would be seen in the region and more widely as a credit to the NATO-led intervention.

Read: Who is Saif Gadhafi?

It would also enable Libya to resume oil and gas exports, demonstrate the international community’s capacity to manage such transitions and encourage positive outcomes to other Arab Spring protests, including those in Yemen and Syria.

Failure to stabilize Libya could lead to chaos, breakup of the Libyan state that sets an unwelcome precedent elsewhere, or restoration of dictatorship.

These outcomes would all damage American and allied credibility and likely also cause major problems for our European allies, including shortfalls in energy supplies, loss of major investments and a continuing refugee flow. Refugees could also cause problems in Tunisia, Egypt, and the rest of the Mediterranean.

It is therefore the Europeans, along with the Arab League, who should take the lead in post-Gadhafi stabilization of Libya, under a clear United Nations Security Council mandate that recognizes a legitimate post-Gadhafi Libyan authority and sets out strategic goals for the transition.

Read: More CFR.org analysis of Libya.

The goals should include a united and sovereign Libya within its well-established borders that can sustain, govern and defend itself through inclusive democratic institutions, using Libya’s resources transparently and accountably for the benefit of all its people.

Quick deployment of a peacekeeping force of several thousand paramilitary police, mainly to keep order in Tripoli and other population centers, would help ensure these goals are met.

The European Union and its member states can deploy several hundred paramilitaries. Turkey and Arab countries might supply the remainder. An international peacekeeping operation would not administer Libya but would support an inclusive interim authority in maintaining stability, providing humanitarian assistance, and beginning the reconstruction process.

What if this does not work? NATO will need to be prepared to step in. Only as a last resort - to deal with widespread disorder, a threatened breakup of the Libyan state, or a humanitarian catastrophe - should the international community consider armed intervention without the invitation of a legitimate Libyan authority. This could mean U.S. boots on the ground, but only briefly as part of a broader multilateral effort.

Read: Gadhafi regime appears on the verge of collapse.

Leadership in post-Gadhafi Libya should be passed as quickly as possible to the Libyans, who have already set up local councils and a Transitional National Council, which help to organize and provide services in the liberated portions of the country. These indigenous institutions merit nurturing and support, including unfreezing of Gadhafi-era assets so that the councils in liberated areas can begin to meet the needs of their populations. The post-Gadhafi era has already begun there.

Libya is a resource-rich country with a relatively well-educated citizenry that has demonstrated courage under fire. The country lacks institutions and political experience, but not talent and commitment. The international community should prepare to support Libyan efforts to take charge of the country’s destiny once Gadhafi leaves the scene.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Daniel Serwer.

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Topics: Libya

soundoff (119 Responses)
  1. Pert ner Suppertime

    Lets hire these rebels to overthrow the Mexican government, so prosperity could take hold in Mexico and then we wouldn't get so many Illegal immigrants.

    August 22, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Reply
  2. CharlieSeattle

    What happens next is easy...tribal civil war.

    August 22, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Reply
  3. Non-combat vet

    Philip Marlowe, you are a liar. You never flew an F-4 in Vietnam. You said you were dodging Sidewinder missiles. News flash – the Sidewinder is an American air-to-air missile. The Communists didn't use it, and the F-4 pilots were generally dodging ground-to-air missiles anyway. Try watching the History Channel while a little more sober. Perhaps you'll be able to lie a little more convincingly the next time you pose as a vet, Mr. Mall Ninja.

    August 22, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Reply
  4. Descarado

    What happens after Gadhafi? Sharia Law? How will that look on the clueless communitiy organizer's resume in 2012?

    August 22, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Reply
    • petercha

      Good point, Descarado.

      August 23, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Reply
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      "the clueless communitiy organizer's resume in 2012?" What's Sarah Palin got to do with this? You liberals just can't leave her alone, can you? Just because she said she was going to revacuate and betrench, you jump right in and blame her for Libya?

      August 24, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Reply
  5. sam kohen

    Restore the monarchy


    August 23, 2011 at 1:12 am | Reply
  6. Frangible

    Uh, aren't you guys waving the Mission Accomplished banner a little early? I don't think we're going to force him to surrender with 3.7 conventional bombs per day, and who knows if the rebels will push through or not.

    Also, if we keep going to war to get oil, when do we get some f***ing oil out of this?

    August 23, 2011 at 1:44 am | Reply
  7. hgh

    bon cho

    August 23, 2011 at 2:19 am | Reply
  8. markjuliansmith

    If the word Islam comes anywhere near the word Democracy the dreamed of independence of the human spirit is over for another revolution where shouts of 'Freedom' rent the air only to be stifled by a religion of certainty 'God is Great'.

    August 23, 2011 at 3:59 am | Reply
  9. Kay

    Mob rule, chaos, brutal civil war, several armed factions fighting for power. Eventually the striongest military group will win and another dictator will emerge.

    It's going to be a bloody mess.

    August 23, 2011 at 7:48 am | Reply
  10. joe salters

    A year from now The libyain people will wish they were still under Quadifi, It will be another Somalia.

    August 23, 2011 at 8:16 am | Reply
  11. Mina

    Nothing.England eurotrash together with fascists communists russia will continue their "pact" with izlamists then izlamists will take over the land and will screw for their ppl even more and worse than quadifi ever did! Then all these jihadlovers will come out on tv and starting to sing "each of us are usama ben ladin" then as barbarians they are they will screw more for
    idiots who live there....Then" insallah" spycho will take over your land and eurobia so next time you all will shut your dirty mouth and stop to have pact with devils! Well.then is to late,ofcourse.You lost 80% of your population when you undrestand what have you done! You all deserve this death destiny! Just like uncle Nosradamus said!! Isn't izlam wonderful?You can do all violence and menching allah and screw for every one in this world!
    Which "religion" or system can you do this?
    Is only with izlam!

    August 23, 2011 at 10:22 am | Reply
  12. petercha

    Hopefully the new government of Libya will remember that America helped them get into power, and ally themselves with us.

    August 23, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Reply
    • Mays

      Keep dreaming

      August 23, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Reply
  13. JOE

    "What's neck for Libya?" How bout a Hollywood movie? After all, every soul in America from weding celebrities to child murderer seems to be either posing for some popular magazine or making a movie. So why not a movie about the times and life of a dictator? It would sell big in the US.

    August 23, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Reply
  14. stacib

    What happens after Gadhafi?

    Our government will rather silently award a no bid re-building contract to Dick Cheney's newest company and American taxpayers will pay for what was just blown up. The funding is no problem because it makes the wealthy...richer. It's in the name of Democracy.

    August 23, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Reply
  15. Georgio Castelli

    As usual, the USA will get another country to pick on...Iran, Korea, Russia, dont you foolish americans see the policy of your country ? War, war, war, all protecting the vested interest of the few ( jews and republicans ) who want instability around the world so they can profit from the mess of the masses and happen to control the fate of the USA ?...They claim, Human Rights, they claim Freedon, they claim My Ass...all they want is power, control, money to fatten their bank acounts at the expense of american foolish taxpayers...what is it going to take for you americans to wake up ?
    Think, if you have a brain to think, wake up before it is too late...understand you americans are being manipulated big time by your government and you are doing nothing about it...THST IS THE BEAUTY OF POLITICS...make them believe...and we get richer !!!

    August 23, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Reply
  16. Mays

    As usual, mullahs will take over Libya and like Iran, it will become a regime that will come to haunt the West.

    August 23, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Reply
    • Joe

      Your right, that's all there seems to be in that part of the wold, crazies.

      August 23, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Reply
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      They think the same way about "civilian government" that many Americans do about "ga y marriage:" it isn't decent, and people who do it should be killed with pitchforks. People who allow it to be done are evil heretics and must be tortured. Being ruled by someone who isn't a mullah means you go straight to hell. Same thing the American Taliban is pushing here right now: the president MUST be a super-religious numrod, so he can force us to follow the one true religion.

      August 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Reply
  17. Texas Doc

    Wow, Osama Bin Laden and now Gadhaffi? Is there anything our President can't do? I mean Reagan couldn't get him , Bush, too busy not catching Bin Laden. Good thing Obama can make things happen. Hat tip to the President and the U.S.A.

    August 23, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Reply
    • texasgoat

      He won't be able to con the American people into a second term.

      August 24, 2011 at 10:04 am | Reply
    • Kanye West

      It's nice to have a president who doesn't hate black people.

      August 24, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Reply
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      Con? Bin Laden is dead, and against Bush's will. Khadafy's hiding in a spider hole. Al-Qaeda is helping us conquer Libya. Looks to me like we should have hired a black guy for the job fifteen years ago.

      August 24, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Reply
  18. texasgoat

    Great article...start off blaming Bush!

    August 24, 2011 at 10:03 am | Reply
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      Bush? He had nothing to do with the way the war was fought. He was playing with his GI Joe© action figures while Cheney ran us into the ground. Nobody blames Dubya, because he's a dummy.

      August 24, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  19. Grim Reaper

    Hey TexasDoc-stop prescribing yourself medical marijuana. You really think Obama toppled Gadhafi-and capping it off on vacation aka one hand tied behind his back. Right, armed only with a clipboard and after 12 days of powering on to collect a Nobel prize your superhero freed a nation. And what, the rebesls are running around with guns because they ran out of cheerleaders? Save the tip of the cap for when Commander can conjure up some non-government jobs baby einstein.

    August 24, 2011 at 10:08 am | Reply
    • Kanye West

      Get back to me when Obama dresses up like a soldier and poses in front of a sign saying MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Bush was a wussy.

      August 24, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Reply
  20. StephensB

    What happens after KaDaffy Duck's gone ....... CHAOS ! and one way or another the American taxpayer will get the bill . That aint' right or left wing bee ess , it is just how it is .

    August 24, 2011 at 11:03 am | Reply
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      Probably no gas from Libya for months, meaning higher prices. That's the only way it would affect us.

      August 24, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Reply
  21. Voltairine

    U.S. foreign policy will never permit real Democracy in any Middle Eastern nations. See, "The West Is Terrified of Arabic Democracies", Noam Chomsky interviewed by Qantara, June 17, 2011. The gargantuan strategic significance of Middle Eastern oil supplies under the control of a Democratic Arab population who, polls show, overwhelmingly believe that the U.S. is their primary threat, would bring the U.S. and other western powers to their feet, as it were. The west will not permit this, and will do what it has always done.

    A small excerpt from the aforementioned interview:

    Noam Chomsky: “The Arab-Islamic world has a long history of democracy. It's regularly crushed by western force. In 1953 Iran had a parliamentary system, the US and Britain overthrew it. There was a revolution in Iraq in 1958, we don't know where it would have gone, but it could have been democratic. The US basically organized a coup.

    In internal discussions in 1958, which have since been declassified, President Eisenhower spoke about a campaign of hatred against us in the Arab world. Not from the governments, but from the people. The National Security Council's top planning body produced a memorandum - you can pick it up on the web now - in which they explained it. They said that the perception in the Arab world is that the United States blocks democracy and development and supports harsh dictators and we do it to get control over their oil. The memorandum said, this perception is more or less accurate and that's basically what we ought to be doing.”

    Qantara: “That means that western democracies prevented the emergence of democracies in the Arab world?”

    Noam Chomsky: “I won't run through the details, but yes, it continues that way to the present. There are constant democratic uprisings. They are crushed by the dictators we - mainly the US, Britain, and France - support. So sure, there is no democracy because you crush it all. You could have said the same about Latin America: a long series of dictators, brutal murderers. As long as the US controls the hemisphere, or Europe before it, there is no democracy, because it gets crushed.”

    August 24, 2011 at 11:27 am | Reply
  22. Kanye West

    If Khadafy is unable to serve, his place will be taken by his VP, Sarah Palin.

    August 24, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Reply
  23. humbleserf

    Syria. Pakistan. Iran. All in humanitarian efforts of course... after all, we are led by a nobel peace prize winner.

    August 24, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Reply
  24. corrina

    Wao Phillip, you must have suffered traumatic brain injury. to blame our prez for the troubles in Lybia. the lybian people wanted a dictator to step down after 40 years and u r blaming obama. do the european countries blame him too or is it just you?. sad, sad, that u would hate someone so much as to blame him for everything. why not add hurricane, earthquakes, tsunamis and all

    August 26, 2011 at 6:44 am | Reply
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