The heated speculation over the who knew what and when about the Benghazi debacle seems to overshadow a much bigger problem for U.S. policy: post-Qaddafi Libya is and continues to be lawless and anarchic.
Shortly before Benghazi happened, the Obama administration set aside $8 million to build up a counterterrorism force in the country. The challenge it faces now is whether to work through the weak central government, or to try to work with the various militias directly. The Washington Post explains the dilemma:
The Libyan government remains largely ineffective, with its military and police force still in the embryonic stage. Many militia members are armed, disciplined and ready to work. But Libyan officials and analysts say their participation in such a force could undermine the very goal of establishing a strong and unified postwar Libya.
The U.S. finds itself up a creek without a paddle here. One of the main militia groups being considered for cooperation, The Libyan Shield, helped the U.S. rescue force respond to the shelling of the consulate in Benghazi. But the same group has participated in tribal skirmishing and has targeted civilians. Another, called the Supreme Security Committee, or SSC, has clashed with the Libyan Shield in the past. Both groups at times wear uniforms identifying themselves as official military or police personnel, but do not recognize the elected central government’s authority.
These are the wages of our war against Qaddafi. We participated in the ouster of a bloodthirsty despot on humanitarian grounds without giving much thought as to what would follow. In some ways, the Obama administration had fanciful, careless ideas about Libya roughly analogous to what the Bush people thought would happen in Iraq with the fall of Saddam—that Libya would somehow remain coherent rather than slowly succumb to the forces of entropy.
Sadly, it’s not working out that way. Not only has the terror threat metastasized to neighboring countries, but the security and integrity of the country we were ostensibly trying to help is in question. Via Meadia hopes that the Obama administration will somehow manage to square this circle in Libya. And as we said earlier this week, we hope that there is more thought being given as to what happens after our side “wins” in Mali. The danger of “leading from behind” is that it often amounts to no leadership at all.