Earlier today I linked to arguments made by Max Boot and Richard Haass in favor of sending foreign (see: western [see: American]) troops into Libya to ensure that the country does not fall in the face of the many challenges that it is certain to face. Personally, I think that the west should absolutely reject the idea of foreign troops – almost as quickly as the Libyan people are sure to reject the idea.
Issandr el-Amrani goes one step further. In reaction to Boot’s argument:
Considering the Libyan rebels have done all the ground work by themselves, one wonders whether they either want or need foreign troops to help them out. More importantly for outsiders, I don’t think Americans or Europeans need to finance one or get into yet another difficult deployment abroad. Has this man ever seen an occupation he didn’t like? I’m not sure whether the TNC has raised the possbility of a “stabilization force”, but I certainly hope it does not ask for one.
In reaction to Haass, El Amrani expands on what he thinks the US should be doing:
I find it simply astonishing that Haass puts the idea of foreign deployment in Libya ahead of finally giving backing to diplomatic initiatives. I would advocate instead that the TNC be cut off (from military and financial help) if it does not engage in serious peacemaking as soon as Qadhafi is out of the way. But idea of foreign troops in Libya at this stage, when Libyans are taking ownership of their country, is mind-boggling. The truth is that the TNC is close to a position where it can do what it wants. It has the ability to raise funds quickly as soon as it establishes control over Libya’s oil infrastructure (no doubt oil companies are already lining up to give it advances in exchange for future production and contracts). It will soon no longer need NATO. It is up to it to decide what kind of transition it wants in Libya, and how to enforce it.
But at least Haass is honest that this was no humanitarian intervention, but rather a political one. I think it has multiple causes (and different ones for, say, Sarkozy, Cameron, Berlusconi or Obama) but ultimately will be driven by energy concerns. Libya will need Western oil majors for the development of its petroleum infrastructure (just as Qadhafi needed them before) and the next Libyan government will figure out what kind of relationship to have with them. It may understandably have gratitude towards NATO members. But it need not have their troops on the ground while negotiating this.
El Amrani raises a number of good points, and I share his disbelief with the support for western troops in Libya. I would add, though, that the TNC could have troubles with peacemaking even if it is acting in good faith. Any amount of violence by Qaddafi loyalists will make it much more difficult to convince independent rebel militias (katiba) to put down their arms. Likewise, if it seems as though the TNC is acting more as a replacement for Qaddafi, rather than a revolutionary organization that represents the people, the Kitaeb will perhaps hold onto their weapons as a means to ensure the success of the revolution. Put another way, there are very possible scenarios in which the TNC tries to engage in peacemaking, but is unable to due to other factors.
Photo from Modernity Blog