Look out Libya, the airport’s about to get crowded
The dust has not settled, the bullets are still in the air, and Gaddafi, wrapped in his green cloak, is still brooding in a bunker and wondering what the hell happened.
But this will still be marked as “Day One” of whatever nation emerges from the wreck of Gaddafi’s “Libyan Arab Jamahiriya” and wheels are already turning in New York and elsewhere, as post-conflict experts determine “What’s next?”
In the United Nations, a small team led by former Amnesty International Secretary General Ian Martin has been quietly working on plans for a post Gaddafi mission to Tripoli. What would it look like? Peacekeeping seems unneeded, given that the govt forces are in complete collapse, appear to lack any distinctive ethnic or regional base of support, and will likely melt back into society.
A police mission, however, may be more useful. The biggest challenge facing the National Transition Council will not be how to seize the levers of power (a task that now appears complete), but how to re-legitimize them. If the local police detachment has been loathed by the neighborhood as the capricious enforcers of Gaddafi’s power, can the NTC expect the public to accept them now as the representatives of the new government? UN police could be useful to ease this transition, retraining, or demobilization, and have a good track record of doing so.
A humanitarian mission is not needed, Libya being relatively well supplied in food and medicines. The disruption of the last few months will disappear quickly, and under stocked markets will recovery shortly once all the roads are reopened and the NATO blockade is lifted.
A development mission is also not needed, but it is coming no matter what. Libya’s GDP per capita is $13,805. This is higher than Turkey, Romania, and Thailand. Nonetheless donor nations will need to be seen to be helping in some way, and the politically most expedient thing they can do is announce $x millions to be delivered through their aid agencies (like DFID, USAID, CIDA, etc). If the only thing you own is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. This will be a shame for a couple reasons. First, the money that will be sent to Tripoli could be better used elsewhere. And second, the aid money will likely do more harm than good in Libya. It will discourage the new government from investing in sectors like healthcare (why bother, DFID’s going to pay for that) and will undermine local entrepreneurs who could be providing those goods and services themselves.
A political mission, led by the UN, is almost inevitable. There will probably be elections, ministries will be reopened, civil servants will be brought back. This morning countless “governance” experts, who charge out at $700/day, began packing their bags and replaced “Afghanistan” with “Libya” on their PowerPoint slides.
The one thing the international community is good at is helping to hold elections. The next best thing they can do is build up police forces. After that, its utility per dollar ratio plummets. Development, institution building, private sector development: these are things we’re lousy at. But we’re even worse at admitting it. And the billion dollar aid industry is not inclined to suggest anything other than “Spend More!”.
So look out Libya, it’s about to get really crowded at the airport.
UPDATE: I hate (read “love”) to say I told you so, but Ban Ki Moon gave a press conference today and announced:
The United Nations is now prepared to assist in all vital areas, including security and the rule of law; socio-economic recovery; constitution-making and the electoral process; human rights and transitional justice; and coordination of support from Libya’s neighbours and the international community.