The swift move of the rebels into Tripoli is almost certainly the start of the end of Gaddafi and his regime. As I noted both in an earlier letter to the Financial Times and in past blogs, this is the time for the international community to move swiftly and massively with assistance to help build stability, provide just governance, basic services, and above all security for the Libyan population. The victory was in significant part due to a coordinated series of 7,459 total missions flown by NATO and its allies according to press reports this morning.
Libya has the resources to make life good for its population. In the short run, the largest challenge for the rebel National Transitional Council is to assert authority and provide stability and unity. But this can’t be done without outside help including from the U.S. What we needed to do is to prepare for this ending months ago, since it was inevitable that this day would come. A resumption in oil sales, providing food supplies, and training of both military and civilian officials is necessary so that an effective transition can be quickly developed. The United Nations can and should help in this process. Jobs need to be created for the unemployed with funds released from the Gaddafi regime’s funds abroad.
A unified government is required that reaches out to all groups, asks for outside assistance, and puts in place the mechanism to effectively see that aid reaches the people that need it, not just the rich and well-connected. But NATO and allied countries also need to give help, visible to all, in place at once. Planes should be landing now with aid. This is not just the end of the end, but the start of a new fragile beginning that needs our immediate help as we did in the days after World War II.
A good sign was the presence of Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey D. Feltman in Benghazi, who is probably trying to help coordinate aid in the transition and push for broad participation and assist stability and security of the entire population. It looks like at least America has some immediate plans to provide humanitarian help. But will it be sufficient over the long-term given the GOP’s demanded cuts to our diplomacy budget?
One of the ironic and hypocritical elements of the Arab Spring upheavals is that the conservative Republicans that cried out for the U.S. to bring our ground armed forces into the fray have shown their true colors. They criticized President Obama for his caution and moderation and are now cutting drastically the funding of our preventive diplomacy capability (via State and USAID). This means that we may not be able to turn this immediate military victory into a long-term success and have an influence on the course of events in this region. One wonders: just how serious were Republican critics in their so-called support for Middle East democracy and American leadership in dealing with the risks and opportunities of Middle East change?
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By Harry C. Blaney III.