Post-Qaddafi Libya

I’m traveling tonight, so I’m putting up tomorrow’s blog post today:

Politicians don’t like to answer hypothetical questions, but analysts do.  When Paul Stares, who leads CFR’s conflict prevention efforts, asked me a month or so ago to write about post-Qaddafi Libya, I jumped at the opportunity.  I’ve been thinking about Libya since the uprising there started six months ago, discussed it in my post-war reconstruction class here at Johns Hopkins/SAIS, and published a few pieces about it on

To my great regret I’ve never been to Libya, but I did work on it at the State Department once upon a time (around 1994), trying to figure out whether we could convince our allies to tap a small portion of frozen Libyan oil assets to compensate families of Pan Am 103 victims.  It was a flaky idea the Brits told me.  They had what I regarded as an even flakier one:  a trial for the perpetrators in a Scottish court convened in The Hague.  Go figure.

That was Libya before Qaddafi decided to give up his nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction programs.  But in one profound sense nothing changed.  Qaddafi gave up his WMD because he feared the Americans would do to Libya what they had done to Iraq.  He was still in power and wanted to stay there.

The rebellion in Libya is determined to deny him that privilege.  I don’t know whether they are going to succeed.  I could certainly write another paper treating a scenario in which he stays in place in Tripoli and central Libya, having lost control of Benghazi and the east (Cyrenaica) as well as parts of the west.  But this one focuses on a scenario in which he and the regime collapse.  I’ve tried to imagine the most urgent problems arising in the days after Qaddafi’s fall, outline options for dealing with them, and recommend appropriate policies.

The result is Contingency Planning Memorandum 12, the first CFR has done on what most people would define as a post-conflict situation, albeit one that has not yet come into existence.  I prefer to refer to “societies emerging from conflict,” since conflict doesn’t end, even if you are relatively successful and violence does.  That’s just the point with Libya:  there are many ways in which post-Qaddafi Libya could be conflictual and even violent, unless we prepare carefully and take the necessary preventive measures.

I am convinced that American interests do not justify a major U.S. role in the aftermath of Qaddafi’s fall, just as they do not require a continued leading role in the military action the UN Security Council authorized.  The Europeans stand to lose oil and gas supplies as well as investments in a chaotic Libya, not to mention the possibility of Libyan migrants reaching Italy, France and Spain in numbers that would cause serious political tension.  The Europeans should lead, preferably with a UN Security Council mandate and lots of Arab and African support.  We should be prepared to fill in, and step in with NATO intervention if the Europeans fail.

It will be interesting to see how much of what I’ve written holds up in the weeks after Qaddafi loses power.  Analysts like hypotheticals more than they like reality, unless they get lucky and hit the mark.  We’ll see, soon enough I hope.

PS:  “Q”addafi is CFR’s (and the NY Times’) preferred spelling.  “G”addafi is what I’ve been using, I don’t remember why.  I guess I’m inclined to switch to the usage of my betters.  Anyone want to tell me which one is closer to being correct?

Tags : , , ,

One thought on “Post-Qaddafi Libya”

  1. PS: “Q”addafi is CFR’s (and the NY Times’) preferred spelling. “G”addafi is what I’ve been using, I don’t remember why. I guess I’m inclined to switch to the usage of my betters. Anyone want to tell me which one is closer to being correct?

    The joys of transliteration … القَذَّافِي The name is spelled with the letter transliterated as “q” in English from Modern Standard Arabic – the k-sound that indicates a following “a” [cat] sound is pronounced with the vowel of “cot.” But in the Egyptian version of Arabic – and apparently, Libyan as well – the letter is pronounced “g” – I switched from q to g after hearing the pronunciation on Al-Jazeera. As far as what’s “correct” – follow the style-guide of your publisher, I guess. (And the “el-” merely means he’s of the Gadhaafi tribe.)

    The middle consonant is “dh” (th of “the”) followed by a long aa, which somehow usually comes out “dda.” They did something similar with “Sadaam” Hussein, which is always written as “Saddam” – I think the double consonant is an attempt to make sure the preceding “a” is pronounced with the a of cat – the way George Bush I used to say it and everybody laughed. Not that “long” Arabic vowels are very long, of course.

    I suggest you wait with this in hopes that somebody actually qualified responds, but in any case, the suggestion to follow your publisher’s style is probably safe: it’s what professional translators are told to do for Russian, anyway.

Comments are closed.