Tag: United States

Still vague on those post-war plans

Here are the comments on the President’s speech that I posted this evening at The Danger Room:

Clear enough to me: atrocities in Benghazi would have reverberated against US interests and values, not only in Libya but elsewhere as well.  Because allies and partners are now picking up the burden, US military and taxpayers will need to do less.  Libyan frozen assets will pay for reconstruction.

He said little about post-war plans, other than Libya is for the Libyans, who should lead the transition.  Gaddafi has to go, but that is not a military task.

The difficult trick now is that transition.  If that goes well, this operation will be remembered well.  If Gaddafi remains, or the transition is botched, it will be remembered badly. We need the diplomats to get Gaddafi out of there.  And we still need those post-war plans, which should include a big assistance role for the Europeans.

In case you missed the speech:

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A Bosnia watcher worries about war

I found this note in my email this morning, from a well-informed Bosnia watcher:

After all the time, money and energy the US has spent on Brcko, it appears that the upcoming Peace Implementation Council meeting in Sarajevo (29-30 March) will see an effort to end Supervision of the independent District of Brcko.

This comes at a time when Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik has begun to make unqualified statements that now is the time for BiH to dissolve; at a time when the Federation is entering its deepest crisis since the 2001 third entity attempt; at a time when there is not only no state government but also no sign of one being formed anytime soon; at a time when most state institutions are either blocked or dysfunctional; and at a time when the centrifugal forces tearing at BiH have begun to accelerate. It also comes on the heels of a rather insulting and arrogant public letter from Dodik to the Brcko Supervisor in which Dodik refused to provide assurances that he would respect the Brcko Final Award or the territorial integrity of Brcko District.

Brcko is important in that it is one of the few real levers we have to influence good behavior, both on the part of Republika Srpska and the Federation. It is also the place where the first shots will probably be fired in the event that BiH breaks up and conflict begins anew. It is the strategic bottleneck for Republika Srpska: without control of Brcko, the main population centers of RS have no contiguous contact with Serbia. Belgrade wants to seek compensation for losing Kosovo in Republika Srpska, and is facing an increasing acquiescence to such an approach from the Brussels bureaucracy.

Brcko is also a major success story in terms of refugee returns and is one of the few areas where substantial numbers of refugees have been able to re-establish their pre-war homes. Should supervision end without a stable, functional Bosnian state government and institutions, and as the situation continues to deteriorate, RS will probably attempt to regain control, and ethnic cleansing would most certainly be one of the outcomes.As such, we should not be considering closing Brcko Supervision for at least another decade and until we see proof of long-term good behavior from Republika Srpska. Yet, for some reason the Peace Implementation Council and the US seem hell-bent on recommending the closure of Brcko Supervision. This is one of those moves that makes one wonder if State Department and the EU are taking crazy pills.

Brcko is truly a game-changer, both for better and for worse. If Brcko goes, we will have started the countdown towards picking up where we left off in 1995.

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Post-war plans are needed, urgently

Tonight the President will clarify what we are doing in Libya and tomorrow a London diplomatic conference will assemble to congratulate itself on what we have achieved so far.  But I doubt either one will seriously address post-war planning, which is needed right now.  The President can’t call attention to it because his message will be that we aren’t going to spend much money on Libya, which Secretary Gates has already classified as “not vital” to the U.S.  The London conference won’t do it either, because the Europeans should lead on support to Libya but they are still in their all too usual disarray.

So let me offer some guidance about the elements I would consider important in a post-war plan.  The first thing to lay out is a satisfactory end-state, as Gideon Rose so eloquentlysaid in the Washington Post last weekend.  Let me borrow from the ill-fated lexicon of George W. Bush and suggest that a Libya (note the singular) that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself would be a satisfactory outcome.

I don’t mean to suggest that this is a U.S. responsibility; only that Washington should be happy if that is the outcome.  I fully expect the U.S. to avoid responsibility for the post-war efforts, which in my view should fall mainly to Libyans and Europeans.  Libyans because it is their country.  Europeans because it is their neighborhood (and a major oil and gas supplier).

There is no cookie-cutter approach, but post-Cold War state-building efforts have generally focused on five broad objectives.  Here they are, with some pertinent questions (with thanks to my SAIS class for our discussion of several weeks ago):

1.  Safe and secure environment: Libyans seem to quickly organize themselves for community protection, but in the aftermath of this war the big problem is likely to be the Gaddafi loyalists, who may conduct the kind of stay-behind operation that plagued the Americans in Iraq (and troubled Benghazi just 10 days ago, when Gaddafi appeared on the verge of taking the city).  There is also likely to be a serious rash of revenge killings, especially targeted against Gaddafi’s mercenaries.  Preventing emergence of an insurgency and blocking the revenge impulse will require serious leadership on the part of the Libyan rebels.  Failure to prevent revenge killings will incite further resistance from Gaddafi loyalists and haunt the New Libya for years to come.

There is also a need to secure whatever chemical and other weapons of mass destruction Libya may still have, as well as an eventual effort to collect first heavy and then lighter weapons still in the hands of rebels and Gaddafi’s forces.  Failure to do this will mean a constant threat to the state from well-armed organized crime, which will grow naturally out of whatever smuggling operations both the Gaddafi regime and the rebels have been enjoying.  The objective should be to establish the state’s monopoly on the legitimate means of violence, with all deliberate speed.

2.  Rule of law: Libya’s police force will need vetting and reform–this is something the Europeans have assisted in many other places and should help with in Libya, at Libyan invitation.  I know precious little about the judicial system in Libya, but as the head of the Transitional National Council is a former Justice Minister I trust we can rely on him to ask for what the judicial system needs.  Some prisons seem to have been emptied during the fighting, releasing extremists.  They will need to be recaptured, before they begin to wreck havoc in Libya or get to Somalia.

3.  Stable governance: This will be a big challenge. Libya under Gaddafi was a “republic of the masses” and lacked many functioning state institutions.  The Transitional National Council (TNC) will presumably be the seed from which other governing institutions–a parliament, ministries, a presidency, local governments–will grow. The TNC needs to remain broadly representative of all elements in Libyan society if it is to have the legitimacy required.  As the rebels move west, this will mean enlarging or changing its composition, a difficult maneuver while trying to keep so many moving parts in place.

Of course it is possible that a new strongman will emerge to replace Gaddafi and he’ll decide what happens next.  But experience elsewhere suggests that once people taste freedom it is hard to reimpose dictatorship.  The UN has extensive experience helping to reform and reconstruct governing structures, not to mention holding elections and writing constitutions.  The Libyans might do well to look there for help.

4.  Sustainable economy: Libya has the great benefit, and curse, of oil and gas in sufficient quantities to make its 6.4 million or so citizens reasonably well off.  Nothing of that sort happened under Gaddafi.  It is hard to imagine where all the money went, though the freezing of about $30 billion in Libyan assets by a single U.S. bank gives a hint.  The oil and gas companies will get in and fix whatever is physically broken once a safe and secure environment is in place.

What the Libyans need to focus on is making sure they have the fuel they need for their own consumption and establishing a system for oil revenue that makes citizens better off.  They could do worse than consult with Norway, which uses its oil revenue to fund an endowment and spends only the earnings on the endowment, but that is just one option.  Alaska’s approach, which provides per capita payments (much like welfare, but don’t tell Sarah Palin I said that) to each of its citizens, is another.  The worst approach is the most likely one:  giving the revenue to the government, which will then have no need to establish a rapport with citizens to fund its voracious desires.

5.  Social well-being: The most immediate problems are food, water, shelter and health care for the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people.  But Libyans have been through four decades of a reality-defying dictatorship, one that ultimately divided them into loyalists and rebels.  National reconciliation does not come naturally and will need care and attention. It will be easier if those revenge killings are few.

Again:  I don’t mean to suggest that all this is a U.S. responsibility.  It is not.  The Libyans should take the lead.  But Washington needs to think hard about ensuring that the necessary assistance is available.  That doesn’t cost much–we’ve already paid for the nation’s diplomats, at least until early April–but it is vital if Libya is to get where we want it to go:  govern itself, sustain itself, defend itself.

PS:  Those who are going to want to vaunt the Libya operation as a triumph of responsibility to protect should be particularly concerned about the lack of post-war planning.  The ultimate judgment of whether this was a wise humanitarian intervention will depend not only on the military outcome but also on the civilian results.

PPS: Steven Metz discusses the insurgency issue.

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Endgames: local legitimacy is key

It is easy to get caught up in the drama and thrill of events as people throughout the Middle East lay claim to inalienable rights, but we shouldn’t forget  that revolutions don’t often end well.  What can and should we be doing to try to ensure that the hopes and aspirations of so many don’t end up serving the interests of a few?  And what vital U.S. interests need attention?

Libya.  Hillary Clinton will be attending a meeting Monday in London to talk about the future of Libya, which is a particularly difficult case because the country largely lacks a state.  What it has though is a strong tradition of local councils, most evident in Benghazi but also apparent in other places that have been liberated.  If these local councils can gain a degree of legitimacy by being inclusive, they could become the foundation for a decentralized post-Gaddafi regime.  My guess is that this would be far better than building the new Libya from Tripoli outwards, which won’t be possible in any event until Gaddafi departs.

As for U.S. influence, the most obvious way to guarantee it is to provide arms to the rebels, as Blake Hounshell suggests. There are many downsides, not the least of which is eventual misuse of the weapons to commit atrocities.  Revenge killings are more than likely in the aftermath of Gaddafi’s fall, which is one of the reasons he and his minions hold on so tenaciously.  That said, I would opt at least for the rocket-propelled grenades the rebels need to defend themselves against Gaddafi’s armor.  The bigger question is whether supplying them is done

  • without changing the existing UN Security Council resolution (1973) on grounds that they are part of the “all necessary means” required to protect civilians (either overtly or clandestinely), or
  • by adopting a new UNSC resolution that recognizes Gaddafi’s failure to comply with 1973 and adopts additional measures required to unseat him.

If arms supplies are to get there in a timely way, the former is obviously preferable to the latter.  But the latter is far better from the perspective of maintaining legitimacy of coalition operations against Gaddafi.

Yemen.  President Saleh’s days are numbered, but he is insisting on an orderly transition of power.  That is not a bad idea.  It would certainly be preferable to the kind of mess we are seeing in Libya, and it really does not matter much whether it occurs this month or next.

To whom should Saleh hand over?  The parliament is little more than a rubber stamp, some of the army leaders who have gone over to the protesters are arguably worse than Saleh when it comes to cozying up to terrorists, the political opposition is undistinguished and the protesters are still an amorphous mass.   Here is both challenge and opportunity for the Americans, in whose interest it is to guarantee an orderly transition to someone who will be at least as good as Saleh in pursuing Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is not saying much.  Here, too, they might look to grassroots tribal, religious, political, civil society and other leaders outside Sanaa for at least a validation of legitimacy.  Part of the Yemen problem is that the current regime really has little or no support beyond the capital.  Building a new regime that has serious representation from both north and south would be preferable to just finding another headman like Saleh.

Syria.  It has indeed gotten serious, as I’ve already suggested, with widespread demonstrations yesterday met with regime live fire, killing how many dozens no one knows:

This time it will be hard for President Bashar al Assad’s spokesperson to claim that he ordered no firing on demonstrators, though that won’t stop them from trying, but the protests have so far stopped short of asking for his ouster.  Bashar is still regarded by many Syrians as above the wrongdoing they associate with the regime, though it is hard to believe that his personal immunity will last much longer.

Bashar has been no friend to the Americans, even if Senator John Kerry thinks we owe him rather than the other way around (at least that is what he said in an appearance at Carnegie Endowment last week).  But again orderliness is next to godliness, now that we’ve got the U.S. military preoccupied with two and a half wars.  Bashar can still survive, but he needs to get serious about the reforms he promised this week, and stop the live fire on demonstrators.  I can’t for the life of me think what it is about the events of the last couple of months that would convince an autocrat that firing on protesters would help him survive.  It seems to me the evidence is all on the other side of the proposition:  let them demonstrate and adopt reforms to meet their legitimate demands, then you might survive.

The others.  The Moroccans seem to have understood that proposition, and until yesterday the Jordanians as well.  The Bahrainis, with Saudi support, seem ready still to test the effectiveness of regime violence and in the process turn popular protests into sectarian strife between a Shia majority population and a Sunni regime.  Their success is unlikely to be long lasting.  It is hard to think of anything worse for Saudi Arabia than linking its fate to the survival of the Al Khalifa monarchy in Bahrain, but that appears to be what the Saudis are determined to do.



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Statebuilding in Libya is not optional

While top officials scramble to straighten out how NATO will handle Libya, the situation on the ground there is getting much less attention than it merits.  Our new-found rebel friends are not doing well, either in their military efforts or in their attempts to create a proto-governing structure.  Heather Hurlburt writes at The New Republic:

I am less frantic about the endgame than many observers, not because I am more sanguine but because very often planners who have a clear endgame in mind are deluding themselves anyway. (The architects of the Iraq War believed they had thought through how everything would play out).

She certainly has a point about the architects of the Iraq war, but that is no reason for not planning now for the end of the Libya war, which will pose difficult problems, whenever it happens.

Libya is a country with less than a complete state, a condition that is readily exploited for nefarious purposes (in the past colonial ones, in this century usually extremist ones).  No one should imagine that the state is going to emerge magically from the ashes, ready to accept whatever new leadership we decide it deserves. That in fact was the thoroughly flawed plan for “decapitation” at the end of the Iraq war that she refers to so disparagingly.

Nor should we be imagining that building a Libyan state is somehow a U.S. responsibility, though it is not unreasonable to expect the Americans to contribute in some way to the effort.  Arab League?  Doubtful.  UN?  Lots of experience, limited means.  EU? Decent experience, lots of means, geographic proximity.  It seems to me there are ample options–the important thing is to decide who will lead (I’d obviously opt for the Europeans) and then try to ensure that whoever does brings to bear the necessary resources.

Leaving state-building after this war to chance is dangerous.  It could mean a partitioned Libya, or one that collapses like Somalia, or one that becomes a haven for extremism.  To be fair, Heather also says,

We should be skeptical, frantically collecting information, hedging our bets and figuring out what the various forces are in Libya and how we can promote better outcomes and hedge against worse ones…

That does not go far enough: we need to ensure that Libya after this war is stabilized and develops the kind of state that will not allow it to go off the rails again. Less than that would be irresponsible.  The effort can, indeed should, be led by the Libyans, but they will need help.  If someone forgot to tell the President that state-building was part of the package, that was a big mistake.  Focusing on the end-state may not seem urgent, but it is more important than the NATO scholasticism that has preoccupied the Secretary of State for days.

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It takes a region

The Pickering/Brahimi report on negotiating an end to the war in Afghanistan is on less than firm ground in claiming that its publication happens to coincide with the perfect moment to launch negotiations to end the insurgency in Afghanistan (see my previous post), but its discussion of the regional interests in Afghanistan is better framed.  They do not limit themselves to Pakistan, as so many reports seem inclined to do, but look farther to Iran, India, China and Russia.

Still, they leave me with a lot of question marks.  They don’t deal with Pakistan’s ISI, which seems rather more wedded to the Taliban than the rest of the Pakistani government.  In fact, they treat “Pakistan” as a unified actor, which is certainly not the way it has acted in the past, and I don’t know many analysts who expect it to act that way in the future.

They cite Iran’s interests in controlling drugs, protecting Shia, preventing the Taliban from returning to power and maintaining influence in Herat.  But they don’t deal with Tehran’s apparent willingness to provide some military support to Taliban insurgents inside Afghanistan.

The report counts China as a possible influence in the right direction on Pakistan.  Beijing might certainly wish it so, as Afghanistan’s minerals are appetizingly close by.  But I wonder whether the Pakistan that would have to be influenced is all that interested in what the Chinese have to say on Afghanistan.  Again there is that unified actor question.

The treatment of “Central Asian states,” (aka the Stans, I think) and Russia is rather cursory, with a reference to their interests in a stable Afghanistan, their worries about U.S. presence and the possibility of jihadis breaching their borders.  It seems to me that they have been surprisingly non-meddling, even helpful.  How do we account for that, and is there something more they can do?

The discussion of how the proposed international “facilitator” would deal with the various layers of neighborly and other international interest is well done.  The idea would be a series of bilateral consultations, to precede any multilateral meeting (one coming up in Istanbul).

The suggestion that international peacekeepers may be needed post-settlement I find mind-stretching.  It’s a bit difficult to imagine Afghanistan safe for peacekeepers, Muslim or not, rather than peace enforcers.  But of course that is just the point:  if there is a broad political settlement, most of the insurgency would presumably go away.

All of this may be wishful thinking.  But it is more realistic wishful thinking–maybe even “visionary” thinking–than believing we are going to be able to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014 without a negotiated political settlement.

I have feared the terms of that settlement inside Afghanistan for human rights, in particular for women.  I’ve too often sat in State Department meetings where assistant secretaries promised not to sell out human rights, only to discover a week later that is precisely what was done.  And what real leverage do we have over how women are treated in a Helmand governed by Taliban?  The best of intentions somehow go astray when faced with the need for a power-sharing agreement with people who have been violating human rights for years, if not decades.  That conflict of interests and values, again.



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