Don't let Libya become Afghanistan
M16 American assault riffle cartridges lie among boot prints in the earth during Afghan National Army (ANA) training with the French army within the framework of Epidote progamme at the Kabul Military Training Camp near the capital on January 13, 2010. (Getty Images)
September 12th, 2011
10:00 AM ET

Don't let Libya become Afghanistan

Editor’s note: Blair Glencorse is an expert on governance and development. He was selected as member of the Transatlantic Network 2020 and as a UN Alliance of Civilizations Fellow for the Middle-East and North Africa. You can follow him on Twitter @blairglencorse.

By Blair Glencorse - Special to CNN

The fighting in Libya is coming to an end, but years of dictatorship, repression and brutal violence have left very deep social, economic and political divides within Libyan society. The extent of these problems is only just becoming clear as attention turns from war fighting to post-war reconstruction.

The West feels the urge to support a better future for the Libyan people as it should - both because it is in our interests and is the right thing to do - but if past experience is any guide, our efforts will hurt as much as help this process.

From Kosovo to Afghanistan to Sudan, post-conflict development efforts by well-meaning people have been plagued by a host of problems that have ranged from a focus on the wrong goals to the use of the wrong tools. Therefore, it is worth thinking through at this point how we can avoid the pitfalls of the past in Libya. Here are four thoughts on immediate tasks:

1. Support rule of law. Do this through intelligent use of international forces. In the long-term the UN may need to deploy troops (hopefully from Arab and other non-Western countries), but in the short-term Europe has soldiers that could be assigned to protect key Libyan infrastructure, networks and organizations. European Union troops did a great job in Lebanon in 2006 and the EU indicated several months ago its willingness to support a mission of this sort. The rule of law also involves building legal systems quickly. Experience shows that carefully structured incentives for soldiers to give up their arms - and the use of armed police and legal and judicial experts to support due process - will be important.

2. Generate trust. The Transitional National Council (TNC) has declared itself as the only legitimate representative body for the Libyan people and is now recognized by 79 countries. Internally, however, its leaders are already showing signs of disagreement on key issues and different factions are emerging. Trust is the key issue here and the international community can help to build confidence between these groups in a variety of ways. One idea is to make sure that a concrete process is laid out ahead of time for the transition - such as the formation of a transitional government, elections, national consultations and agreement on a new constitution - so political groups become tied into a clear timeline and understand the way forward. This prevents them from taking up weapons again. Countries like Mozambique and Sierra Leone have carried out these types of processes and we should learn from them.

3. Move beyond relief. Thousands of Libyans are suffering from lack of vital necessities including drinking water and medical supplies. It is critical that we mobilize all possible help for these people through the relevant agencies and relief organizations. At the same time, it must be recognized that this has to be a short-term solution and planning should begin as soon as possible for the hand-over of responsibilities to a new, representative Libyan government. Too often, in too many similar contexts, humanitarian organizations operate without exit strategies. In Sudan, for example, many have been doing the same work for 30 years. At this point they may be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

4. Create institutions. Gadhafi tried to create a “stateless society” in Libya, but it is a functioning government that the country needs the most. This is not a financial problem. And aid flows from the West, handed out by numerous agencies, are not the solution. Libya is a wealthy country - what it requires is support for institutions that can allow for transparent spending that benefits its people. The UN appointed a Special Advisor on Post-Conflict Planning several months ago, but the UN is not the relevant organization to deal with these financial issues. For this, appropriate experts from the World Bank should be brought in immediately to quickly build Libyan capacity to manage money and monitor results.

Other issues require simultaneous thought and attention, of course - from oil management to job creation to Libya’s relations with its neighbors - but immediate emphasis on the ideas above would provide a solid basis for the transition. Ultimately, this has to be a Libyan process carried out by Libyan people. It cannot and should not be led by the international community. Avoiding the mistakes of the past is the very least we can do for the Libyan people.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Blair Glencorse.

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Topics: Conflict • Development • Libya

soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    The head of the interim government, Mustafa Abdul Jalil flew to Tripoli for the first time since the capital fell into the opposition's hands.
    He was greeted – only – by hundreds of cheering supporters. The city has 2 million inhabitants. Why didn't more people show up? It just shows the fickleness of many Libyans. Jalil is a judge and he would be fair and just. The question is, whether the others will accept him.

    September 12, 2011 at 10:40 am | Reply
    • Anon

      Judges are human and like all humans imperfect and can make mistakes. He has made many as judge convicting innocent bulgarians to a death sentence for aids and Gaddaffi was smart enough to undo do the damage and let them go free. He has made many mistakes before and after being a judge and getting involved this year with this NTC. As a former Gaddaffi govt official he is not any change from the past and he has not been the least fair dealing with the war. You are very ignorant of all the details. Dont assume everything is just fine with him or with the future. A bettersolution would have been the rebels and so called defectors take Gaddaffis advice and go home and back to work and stop the violence and protests. Protesting is punishable by death in all Mid East and this man executed many previous protestors. Gaddaffi never intended to stay on forever unlike King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni President. He spoke of leaving and having another Replacement and he was willing to leave with reasonable conditions and guarantees given to other former leaders of other countries and that would have saved a war that has destroyed his life,his family, and his country. The rebels and NTC both admitted to their criminal past and both are responsible for more atrocities than any accused on Gaddaffi side. Neither he nor Megrahi nor Libya committed the German disco bombing, nor Lockerbie nor a dozen other bombings he got unfairly blamed for. Cnn,BBC, and other major sites are good to see pictures and videos and comments but realize that those mainstream media like CNN and BBC are biased against Gaddaffi and many other people and you wont find truth or fairness by its journalists. See independent media for the truth like and and Also realize Nato and Nato country govt sites are frequent outright lies especially about Gaddaffi and Libya. It is called lying for war or propaganda so be careful about what you think is the whole truth.

      September 13, 2011 at 5:55 am | Reply
    • Web_observator

      j. von hettlingen likes to make casual, racially motivated and biased statements against Asian countries, particularly against China. Now you move to N. Africa, pretending expert again. Shut up, troll.

      October 1, 2011 at 10:49 am | Reply
  2. ib42

    The headline implies that the west has some magical powers to control the direction these Muslim nations will follow. How naive can you be? My God, just look at Afghanistan after CENTURIES of efforts to 'civilize it, and Iraq, still a quagmire. What about Saudi Arabia, holding on by sheer force and religious subjugation? Egypt is showing all the signs of becoming another hell hole run by uneducated young thugs.And finally..TA DA, Pakistan..over 6 decades since it's inception and a complete mess.
    Good luck with the Libya thing.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Reply
    • nono

      The west has magical tools. It's called bombs and we'll drop as many as possible until they learn to behave. And then we wonder why 9/11 happened

      September 12, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Reply
      • Onesmallvoice

        Are you thick in the head, nono? It seems that all you can think of bombing people out of existance and that causes even more hate. There's nothing courageous nor even honorable about flying planes over someone's land and wantonly dropping bombs on them. In fact, it is both cowardly and contemptable!!!

        September 12, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
      • Doro

        Onesmallvoice Don't; you get it? That is what he is saying – just CAUSING another 9/11. Comprehend. Maybe it's round-about or sarcasm, but the meaning is pretty available.

        October 1, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  3. cinnabon

    Too put an ex-jihadist al queda into power and you expect democracy and peace? Might as well put some terrorists on a plane and let them fly to the sears tower.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Reply
  4. DaveNYUSA

    NIce photo. By the way, those are training, or "blank" rounds.

    September 12, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Reply
  5. TP

    Wake up people....The USA and the UN are supporting terrorists....I understand the man has to go but 1000s of AQ supporters are within the fight, the support we have given them will soon turn on us so get ready.......great job Washington. Maybe we should send our support to the 750,000 people that are just about to die.......oh yeah no oil or heavey arm sales involved so our politicians really dont care that all it takes is FOOD to save thease people.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Reply
  6. Onesmallvoice

    One thing is certain about Libya's future. Now that these so-called "rebels" or self-styled liberators have taken over, Libya will now revert to the very hour-glass society that it was back in 1969 under King Idris when there was an extremely small middle class. The poor will now only get poorer and poorer as in Iraq!!!!

    September 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Reply
  7. vanceisheard

    As a student in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System i agree with these two comments on the article. My reason being is that

    I believe that libya brought this situation upon themselfs,therefore, they should fix it themselves. I feel as if the government of libya is determined

    to make changes, but they are afraid to implement these changes. This is what causes an argument within the country. As this argument

    is being displayed to the world, I believe that most people are pointing their fingers at the libyan government. It will be a lesson learned for the libian government and other countries heading towards the same direction as Libya.

    September 12, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Reply
  8. GordonB

    As a simple ordinary non expert in desert sand cra#p I can easily determine that all this crock shi*t does not work with those who the West have taught and coerced to hate, take up arms and kill any one not on their side supporting their mad mob cause. Just observe their delight and jumping around with glee when NATO planes hit and obliterate entire buildings and equipment with living people in them. I am excited actually to see the next phase of this madness which is namely disarming these brain sick weirdos and their reaction when some moron from Bengazi will tell them to evacuate the luxurious villas with swimming pools that they believe they conquered with the blood of their 'fallen' comrades. The amount and types of weaponry they move around with tells you that no military professionals specially those corrupt ones who organized the destruction of their own country will be able or allowed to take it from that.
    Iraq will look like Switzerland compared. Call me dumb.

    September 13, 2011 at 2:53 am | Reply
  9. ashkenaz

    damn u neocolonialists u wont get Libyan resources live Africans alone. Qaddafi is our king and Mugabe is our hero.
    long live Qaddafi

    September 13, 2011 at 11:18 am | Reply
  10. danam1967

    Nice picture of boot print, the training must have been a joke, all the brass you see on the ground, is blank ammo casing. Notice the cripped star shape on the end, blanks, blanks, blanks. Some real high quality trainees if they only let the play with blanks.

    September 23, 2011 at 10:46 am | Reply
  11. Larry Moniz

    First a comment on the photo and caption. The photo is a staged photo that, in no way, bears any semblance of reality unless the basic trainee was incredibly clumsy. The cartridges are unfired blanks. If fired the mouths would have opened due to force of the wadding and the cases scattered over a much wider area. That's not a news pic, it's a staged sham picture.
    As to the story, apparently I need to remind everyone that the American Colonies would have, and did, take serious ubrage to the British receiving aid from third party countries during the revolution. That aid waa primarily in the form of Hessian soldiers from Germany. Why, when our nation can ill afford it, meddle in the domestic affairs of foreign countries. It's an outrageous exercijse of authority that can easily be perceived by other nations as an effort at world domination. Is it any wonder we're despised around the world and have been for at least half a century?

    October 1, 2011 at 11:28 am | Reply
  12. Chickasha

    The Revolution is here ! Ron Paul 2012 !

    October 1, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Reply
    • ME


      October 1, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  13. Wastrel

    Bah, "Rule of Law" - in this case, that means Sharia Law, and that's a FAIL.

    October 1, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Reply

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