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The After Party In Tripoli

I wrote yesterday that the Obama administration’s policies in the Middle East look more and more like President Bush’s third term.  Democracy is the goal, regime change one of the options, and military force is not off the table.

This morning we see another similarity between the Obama policies and the Bush years: as celebrations in Tripoli turned into a new round of bloody fighting, it is clear that impressive military advances do not always bring political stability and peace in their train.

As in Iraq, what is ultimately needed is a political rather than a military solution and in Libya as in Iraq the corrosive effects of decades of dictatorship on the institutions of the state and the fabric of civil society mean that political solutions will be very hard to find.  The rebels have not yet shown much ability or interest in state building and in Libya as in Iraq it is easier for outsiders to provide military assistance than to rebuild a broken state.

We must hope that the violence in Tripoli can be quickly put down, though the military capacity of the rebels is not impressive.  If there is prolonged fighting in the Libyan capital, NATO’s avowed humanitarian aims will look increasingly hollow; moving a bloodbath from Benghazi to Tripoli is not what the Obama administration’s humanitarian hawks had in mind.

NATO air power cannot be used effectively in an urban setting.  The battle for Tripoli, to say nothing of the coming effort to rebuild, could be uglier and more expensive than the allies expect.

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  • Richard F. Miller

    You know, the comparison with Bush is apt. Yesterday, Politico’s Ben Smith began lauding President Obama’s “lead from behind” strategy. Like “Mission Accomplished,” it’s too soon.

    Entry into Tripoli bore no resemblance to Lincoln entering Richmond or Grant’s terms at Appomattox. Ghadaffy’s still in country, the conflict was more than just about his rule as tribal, personal, and religious antagonisms are now surfacing.

    In short, Tripoli in August ’11 ain’t Paris in August ’44.

    Good luck to no stabilization force or post invasion planning.

    Got Bush?

  • JohnR

    Wow, you got that right. Loyalists are putting up a fight in Tripoli, and now that the rebels can’t get close air support from NATO, the fight is back on again.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    As I have mentioned before, most revolts fail, even if they are successful in throwing down the Tyrant, it’s usually just to have another Tyrant take his place. That said, the Cultural attack on Islam that America initiated in Iraq for 9/11, is bearing fruit with the Arab Spring. Frozen and Stagnate Islamic cultures all over, are in motion for the first time, and even when they fail, their cultural knowledge will have grown, and another revolt is inevitable.
    Cultures evolve at glacial speeds, patience is necessary. In the mean time we should sit back, watch, and protect our cultural seed of purple fingers and the justice of a hung Tyrant in Iraq as it grows and spreads. Free enterprise, Democracy, and the Rule of Law is what we need them to learn, and it’s not going to happen quickly.
    I don’t think the Libyans will be successful at this time. I read that they are trying to use Shariah law as the basis of their constitution. It is likely that they will fail with this as badly as Iran has and Tyranny will result.

  • Luke Lea

    “the corrosive effects of decades of dictatorship on the institutions of the state and the fabric of civil society mean that political solutions will be very hard to find.”

    You forgot to mention tribalism. Wouldn’t it be closer to the truth to say “the corrosive effects of decades of dictatorship and centuries of tribalism” mean that political solutions will be very hard to find?

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