The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Libya Tries to Close Southern Borders as Afterparty Continues

By now it’s far too late to avert the catastrophic Libyan Afterparty, but Libya’s new government is trying anyway, closing its borders with Algeria, Sudan, Niger, and Chad, and declaring martial law in the barren south. The BBC:

A parliament spokesman, Omar Humidan, said the move was aimed at stemming the flow of illegal immigrants and goods. [ . . . ]

One member of parliament, Suad Ganur, . . . told AFP news agency that there had been an “upsurge in violence and drug trafficking, and the presence of armed groups that act with complete impunity”.

Libya’s new-found concern about its borders is a welcome development, albeit one the region could have used earlier. Then again even the most effective governments have trouble controlling their borders, and Libya’s new government is far from effective. Although the U.S. border patrol is training thirteen Libyans in Texas, Tripoli has little to no control over its hundreds of miles of remote desert borders, and this is unlikely to change anytime soon. A decree passed in parliament by a country that has no army and only a shambolic civil service which purports to close frontiers that the country doesn’t control should be recognized for what it is: a vain symbolic gesture of little to no actual worth.

With an emerging conflict between the black Tebu and Arab tribes in southern Libya leading to hundreds of dead, jihadists digging in across West Africa where another intervention is on the way, and a steady demand for weapons in Gaza and Syria, it’s likely that weapons, narcotics, and heavily armed men will continue to freely cross Libya’s deserts and borders.

Those who engineered our Wilsonian war in Libya have yet to admit that their ill judged intervention—with postwar planning that can only be compared to George W. Bush’s plans for Iraq in ineptitude and naivete—created a bigger mess than anything they hoped to prevent. Good intentions are no protection in foreign affairs; dilettantish idealists can wreck a country as effectively as hard nosed professional thugs.

Published on December 18, 2012 9:09 am