Remember Libya? In the two years since Moammar Qaddafi was overthrown there, abetted by American, British, and French forces, the country has fallen under the control of criminal gangs (they call them “militias”) and its economy is in collapse. Qaddafi’s arms made their way into the hands of Islamists who used them to inflict who knows how much death and destruction in Mali and destabilized the government there. The Washington Post editors have a prescription—nation building:
What Libya needs from Washington is not a special forces raid but much more help in building a state. In a letter to Secretary of State John F. Kerry released this week, 28 experts, including former American diplomats, scholars and businessmen, urged a more active policy that would expand beyond seeking justice for the Benghazi attack. They urged U.S. technical support for the drafting of a new constitution that safeguards human rights, help in developing a long-term strategy to create an independent judiciary and training programs for security forces.
After helping to liberate Libya, the Obama administration and its European allies were too quick to walk away, leaving a shattered country to find its own way. If they wish to avoid another Arab state descending into chaos, they need to come back.
Have we learned nothing over the last decade? We’re just not very good at nation-building. They might have thought of that before kicking over the apple cart. Nation-building was never on the agenda for Libya and, if it had been viewed as a prerequisite for action, I strongly suspect that Qaddafi would have been left in charge.
Neat, plausible, and wrong.
Here’s my modest proposal: let the British, French, and Italians take responsibility for the nation-building. They did need us to get rid of Qaddafi but they don’t need us for that.