NYT: Put Boots on the Ground in Libya
The NYT says it's time for U. S. advisers and military air traffic controllers on the ground in Libya.
The New York Times editorializes in favor of an increased military presence on the part of NATO and, specifically, the United States in Libya:
Advocates of a short-term bombing campaign were wrong. Civilians are not being protected as envisioned, Colonel Qaddafi isn’t folding, and as tribes threaten to enter the fray, Libya may be nearing collapse. Washington now has three options — none of them ideal.
America could pull out, making a tacit admission that the intervention was a strategic mistake. But a resurgent Colonel Qaddafi would likely seek revenge against the rebels and those who helped them. Moreover, NATO’s resolve would be called into question, as would America’s. Whatever influence Washington might have in the region would evaporate and Al Qaeda would waste no time pointing out that the United States had abandoned Muslims on the battlefield.
Or we could continue doing the minimum necessary to avoid losing. But even if Colonel Qaddafi were to eventually fall, we’d still face the significant and unknown consequences of a postwar Libya. The United States and NATO would not be able to simply leave. We tried this in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it got us an insurgency.
Finally, the United States and its allies could commit the military resources required to genuinely protect Libyan civilians and oust Colonel Qaddafi. Unlike the Bosnian Croats in 1995 and the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in 2001, the rebel forces in Libya are too disorganized to take advantage of NATO air support. To give them a fighting chance, NATO must put military advisers and combat air controllers on the ground — not just British, French and Italian, but also a small number of American ones.
Frankly, I find this editorial puzzling. If, indeed, the NYT editors are right and the rebels are too disorganized to exploit NATO air support, how are they organized enough to secure Libya after Qaddafi has been overthrown? Will the required degree of organization be taught by NATO advisers? Will it be provided by NATO advisers? How is that not neocolonialism? If the history of the last half of the 20th century is any gauge, Libyans will find that plan more offensive than they do Qaddafi.
In my view the countries of the Middle East and North Africa face a similar problem. Democracy worthy of the name is not founded solely on aspirations but on institutions. Organizing an election is not itself establishing a democracy. It is a step in establishing a democracy.
After generations (or centuries) of authoritarian rule that has actively dismantled virtually every institution that competes with it leaving the only viable institutions itself, the military, and, possibly, some religious institutions, establishing the institutions to support a democracy is a long and arduous task requiring a patience that is in terribly short supply. This isn’t just a problem for MENA. It’s a problem for any country with a paucity of institutions to support democracy, viz. Russia.
As of this writing the military appears to continue to support Qaddafi in Libya and al-Assad in Syria. In Egypt it may be the case that they’ve overthrown the dictator without overthrowing the dictatorship. Time will tell. But even under the best of circumstances establishing viable democratic government will be difficult in these countries and in Libya the conditions are not optimal.