The Politick: Libyan freedom gained without foreign aid

By: Ivan Flores/Columnist

At the start of the Arab Spring, I wrote that an intervention in Libya without the help of the American military and no clear goal would fail. I was wrong.

At the time, there was not an international cry for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to step down from power and rebel forces were only receiving marginal support from NATO in comparison to what they would later receive: an extensive bombardment campaign.

The rebels have marched into Tripoli and have successfully ousted Colonel Gaddafi without American help. The true challenge now lies in their reconstruction.

At the start of the Libyan conflict, the trials and tribulations of Iraq and Afghanistan were very prominent in the media. The objectives at the start of the bombing campaign were clear: a change in regime by supporting a local uprising. NATO forces would ensure a level playing field by destroying armor and provide close air support for the rebels on the ground.

Every approach that has been taken in the Libyan campaign was almost the exact opposite of what would have been done in Iraq. Where American forces did whatever it would take to prevail in Iraq regardless of cost, it was clear that the United States placed a limit on the costs that our country would bear. Rather than spearhead a campaign in Libya, President Barack Obama was explicit that this would be a joint venture with partners sharing the cost. This would not be a “Coalition of the Willing,” the infamous list of nations that were supporting our invasion of Iraq on paper, but not through funding or personnel.

After six months of prolonged conflict, rebel forces were able to take Tripoli without the need for American boots on the ground as I had thought would be needed. After rebel forces encountered little resistance in the outskirts of Tripoli, there were reports of rebels looting liberating bases and making off with crates of ammunition and tanks. The march through Tripoli was swift.

The next chapter in Libyan history is going to involve a reconstruction and restructuring effort that must be started with the National Transitional Council. The reconstruction and restructuring efforts that the Libyan people need is not something that Western nations have a good track record for providing in recent years.

We are still trying to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan. The previous Libyan government used a system of committees and congresses which effectively made Colonel Gaddafi a supreme authority through his patronage and cruelty. A transition towards a parliamentary or congressional system would need to take place with coordination from the West, where such systems are common and have been functioning for centuries.

Like the Western response to the cries for help from the rebel forces in early April, any reconstruction and restructuring efforts need to be joint ventures between Western and Arab nations. Western nations that have helped the rebels during their uprising did their best not to give the impression that this was western imperialism into sovereign land for its own gain. This trend should continue throughout the restructuring efforts and the preparation of the Libyan people for life in a democracy, and freedom that they have not experienced for quite sometime.

“The Politick” is a biweekly column examining politics.

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