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June 09, 2011

Comments

The difficulty with asking that the rebels "make early progress on a more detailed plan for a post-Qaddafi government" is that it ignores history. Consider, for a local example, the American Revolution.

What kind of government did the rebels envision? Well, they started off with the Articles of Confederation. And it was only after several years of finding out how that didn't work that they put together the Constitution.

Why should we expect the Libyans to do better? Even if they were to come up with a plan, why would anyone expect that it would become a reality in even the medium term?

Thank you so much for posting, Eric! Between the heat and the javascript, I don't have what it takes to post today.

Why should we expect the Libyans to do better?

I don't think this comparison makes any sense.

Building a government is a huge complex undertaking involving many many decisions. But deciding whether you're going to execute prominent loyalists on sight or whether you're going to actively solicit them and cut power sharing deals is a much smaller simpler decision. And unlike minutiae about how to apportion seats in the upper house, settling this question might dramatically change the course of the war.

No one is expecting the rebels to announce a complete plan for every aspect of their government. They just want to hear the rebels say that they care more about victory than vengeance by coopting loyalist power brokers.

this all seems a bit like planning how you're going to spend your lottery winnings.

I hear you cleek, but there needs to be some contingency planning just in case.

I'd say the odds are greater than winning the lottery that Qaddafi gets booted. Not saying that's even probably at this point, but I'd peg it at over 35%.

What Cleek said. You have to win first. Perhaps NATO has implicitly guaranteed the outcome, though it is certainly taking a lot longer than was foreseen by some when we argued the efficacy of a "no fly zone" sometime back. Efforts to eliminate Qaddaffi seem rather deliberate, traducing the convention of not consciously targeting an adversary's leadership (not that I would mind Q joining OBL, but that's beside the point) and I didn't see anything in the portion Eric posted indicating a progressive movement among the rebels. And just to round out the picture, the War Powers Act and the Constitution seem to have been permanently side-lined.

All in all, not a pretty picture, now and for the foreseeable future. Thanks Eric for an excellent post. Good to hear from you.

Yeah McTex, not pretty at all.

And thanks. Good to be back. Life has been hectic to say the least.

Mostly in a good way.

Mostly in a good way.

Glad to see you posting, Eric.

I have nothing useful to say about Libya. I could add something stupid and uninformed, I guess, but will pass.

Well, that was fast. I thought I was changing case. Anyway, hope your career is moving in the right direction and that you now are more sympathetic to my concerns about tax increases. ;-)

Well, I made partner in December...but I'm still in favor of upper bracket tax increases (or: returning to Clinton era rates, so less increase, and more expiration of prior cuts, but you know how such these semantic games work...)

this all seems a bit like planning how you're going to spend your lottery winnings.

First, a kegerator. Then, a really nice house to put it on, and whoopsie, I think I want to live on a lake. Ski boat, and there's going to have to be a boat house. Might as well put a guest suite over the boathouse to give the guests (and us) some privacy. I've got to acquire some friends, too, because that boat isn't going to drive itself. Good water ski, a bag to go around it, a ski rope, and life vests. Might as well put a kegerator on the boat, too.

It's going to take all of my time to design my post-lottery life.

"While it is encouraging to see Hague making these entreaties, it would have been nice had there been a clearer vision of post-Qaddafi Libya prior to commiting military assets to the cause of toppling him."

This is a war and I don't see why you bother with what is nice. The Western perceived interest isn't in building Libya but in destroying it - hence the lack of planning is quite sound.

There can't be a political post-Gaddafi future anytime soon, because the majority of the population is wedded to Gaddafi's ideas and mindset - now more so than before February. Generations will pass before that eventually changes.

Well, I made partner in December..

Been wondering about that. Congratulations, well done, etc, etc. For the record, I never thought you'd change your views on tax rates.

My prediction: Quadaffi's government will fall. It will be replaced by a dictatorship that will seek out and imprison all those believed to be opposed to it. The citizens in a year or two will be unable to distinguish it from Quadaffi's regime.

My reason for this prediction: violent overthrows never lead to a new system of governance. Even our's evicted a representational democracy by a representational democracy.

We spent all our lottery winnings. Now what?

violent overthrows never lead to a new system of governance. Even our's evicted a representational democracy by a representational democracy.

I beg to disagree. It is possible to change a system of governance, but very difficult. For example, Weimar Germany. There, the previous government was a monarchist, semi-autocratic militarist state with a parliament that essentially had only the power of the purse. The Weimar constitution established a parliamentary democracy, with a strong president.

However, the most difficult opposition that the early Weimar governments met was internal. The new republic did not enjoy the trust of its officials, who were quite willing to obstruct the government, even to disregard its direct orders.

Thus, if you do not de-baathify, you will have a decades-long power struggle between the entrenched bureaucracy and the democratic elements. If you do de-baathify, you'll lose all the capability of governing the country, as the state machinery requires experienced officials. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

"Even our's evicted a representational democracy by a representational democracy."

In the case of the American revolution, a distant representational democracy which didn't permit Americans any representation, so that's a bit of a stretch.

Really, what set the American case apart was that we'd already had something close to independence, and the 'revolution' was our reaction to King George's effort to take it away. Closer to fighting off an invasion, than a real revolution, IMO. The Confederation, followed by the Federation, might have been new, but the state governments already existed.

Alas, most real revolutions are 360 degrees, because of the need to create governing institutions from scratch, and the lack of any local model besides what you just revolted against.

That said, the model for deBathification was deNazification, and it's entirely justified if the ruling party was sufficiently nasty. It's just difficult to pull off if you weren't a democracy only a few years earlier, and so have alternative parties to fall back on.

"The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country, yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference,"

SecDef Gates makes the point I tried to make 3 months back when we debated the ridiculous No Fly Zone that got this disaster going. The best post-WWII effort at multilateralism is on life support. The default is unilaterlism. Or, a revived SEATO, since outside the Mid-East, the conditions for a major conflict simply aren't there.

Militarily, Europe has the worst of all worlds: a collection of expensive military structures that can't fight.

We can pretend that we've seen the end of war. It would only be pretense. We can't disarm, but to maintain the force level to truly discourage major conflagrations, we can't be mucking about in strategically insignificant backwoods (Afghanistan) or occupying strategically significant states indefinitely.

Eric, I know you are busy, but with our own budget crises upon us and the disintegration of the Atlantic Alliance, some clear thinking is required.


I just did a couple of posts on this topic over at Noel Maurer's blog -- noelmaurer.com.

Briefly: meaning no disrespect, Eric, but the future government of post-Qaddafi Libya depends sensitively on how the war ends. Consider three possible scenarios:

-- Qaddafi is taken out in a palace coup. A junta takes over. It offers a cease-fire to the National Transition council (the Benghazi rebels), to be followed by mutual amnesties, a National Reconciliation Council, and democratic elections under international auspices.

-- Qaddafi flees. The Loyalist armies fall back as the capital i explodes into chaos. A week or two later, a new regime emerges in Tripoli, consisting of a mixture of former Loyalist officials, military officers, and some former rebels. It claims to be the legitimate government. So does the NTC. Neither is willing to negotiate. In the Western mountains, the Berbers claim autonomy and are visibly contemplating independene.

-- Qaddafi's armies collapse. Rebel columns roll into Tripoli. Qaddafi is dug out of a bunker under one of his palaces and hung on a meat hook. The NTC, triumphant, claims legitimacy by force of arms.

Any of these could happen (though I've put them in descending order of what I'd consider plausible). So, until the shooting stops, it's just premature to do anything more than sketch out some general principles.


Doug M.

"Militarily, Europe has the worst of all worlds: a collection of expensive military structures that can't fight."

...and yet somehow they're managing to win the war in Libya.


Doug M.

Eric, the odds of Qaddafi getting the boot are comfortably better than 35%. I'd put it at closer to 95%, with the major questions being not "whether" but "when", "how", and "by whom". Briefly, NATO won't allow him to win and will keep the pressure on until he flees or is overthrown.

Note the steady drumbeat of countries recognizing the NTC. Even Russia and China have thrown Qaddafi under the bus.

I think he's got about 90 days left, myself. Six months is possible, but IMO unlikely.


Doug M.

We can pretend that we've seen the end of war. It would only be pretense. We can't disarm, but to maintain the force level to truly discourage major conflagrations, we can't be mucking about in strategically insignificant backwoods (Afghanistan) or occupying strategically significant states indefinitely.

Eric, I know you are busy, but with our own budget crises upon us and the disintegration of the Atlantic Alliance, some clear thinking is required.

Well, that's some pretty clear thinking right there.

Any of these could happen (though I've put them in descending order of what I'd consider plausible). So, until the shooting stops, it's just premature to do anything more than sketch out some general principles.

Any of these could definitely happen. However, I don't see that as a reason to refrain from developing contingency plans for those and other possible scenarios.

From what I'm hearing from mil/ngo/UN peeps is that everybody is passing the buck to the next guy, and no one wants to even begin discussing post-conflict scenarios/plans.

I really don't think they should be waiting around to do that. These things take time, logistics require planning/coordination, etc.

Briefly: meaning no disrespect, Eric, but the future government of post-Qaddafi Libya depends sensitively on how the war ends.

Aren't high ranking Libyan officers more likely to defect or stage a coup if they believe that the rebels won't exterminate them at the first opportunity? And if they are more likely, doesn't that change the course of the war?

That's what I don't understand about all these claims that this is premature: they ignore the fact that people change how they behave in the present based on what they expect in the future. What Libyan leaders do right now depends on how they think the rebels might treat them in the future. So having the rebels commit to not-slitting-loyalist-throats-in-the-future can materially alter the course of the war today.

Agreed.

"First, a kegerator. Then, a really nice house to put it on, and whoopsie, I think I want to live on a lake. Ski boat, and there's going to have to be a boat house. Might as well put a guest suite over the boathouse to give the guests (and us) some privacy. I've got to acquire some friends, too, because that boat isn't going to drive itself. Good water ski, a bag to go around it, a ski rope, and life vests. Might as well put a kegerator on the boat, too.

It's going to take all of my time to design my post-lottery life."

Dude, get out of my head! That's just about verbatim what I'd have said. Except I think I'd add brewing equipment so I could dabble in creation of things that would go in the kegerator(s). :)

Sorry to go off on the lottery tangent, but I find the topic depressing.


"Aren't high ranking Libyan officers more likely to defect or stage a coup if they believe that the rebels won't exterminate them at the first opportunity?"

You'll notice that most of the revenge killing has been at the local level; oil ministers and generals have been defecting pretty freely.


Doug M.

Sec. Gates:"The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country, yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference,"

I thought NATO was set up to be a defensive alliance of mutual protection, such that an attack on one member would be considered an attack on all, in the hopes that would deter an attack in the first place. Not some sort of joint expeditionary force to be sent out to attack other countries with no provocation. Thus, I'm not surprised its lesser members are unable to sustain an offensive operation, it's not what the alliance was set up to do.

Very true Ugh.

Two pieces worth reading on NATO that touch on those themes, as well as others brought up by McTex.

Michael Cohen:

http://bit.ly/mEWHzD

James Joyner:

http://bit.ly/lL2aPe

(these links are safe, from me, Eric, shortened on twitter because I'm lazy...)

Just to note, its less typing to make them links than to add the sentence...... :)

Truth: I just can't remember the HTML coding.

I'm a tech ignoramus.


From what I'm hearing from mil/ngo/UN peeps is that everybody is passing the buck to the next guy, and no one wants to even begin discussing post-conflict scenarios/plans.

I really don't think they should be waiting around to do that. These things take time, logistics require planning/coordination, etc.

Let me add that they needs to be someone other than the US State or Defense Department. They need to have a street address on the European continent.

Another proviso, astutely addressed by Eric in addressing the No Fly Zone, is that, regardless of what the West might want as an endgame, getting it is entirely dependent on who comes out on top of the rebels, once Q is dispatched.

...and yet somehow they're managing to win the war in Libya.

How many modern militaries are going up against Libya? What would be shocking would be a stalemate. The point is, they should have already won. Instead, as Gates points out, they are running out of bullets, spare parts and equipment. No logistical depth. Against Libya. It's an embarrassment.

I don't see much reason yet to anticipate any sort of stable centralized government. I'm not really sure that's what's desired by the various anti-Qaddafi regime forces.

It doesn't seem to me that there would be the possibility of a shift in control of existing state institutions, because a big part of Qaddafi's hold on power was to avoid the construction of strong institutions, and instead favor personal networks of power.

A vaguely similar approach to maintaining power was used in Zaire by Mobutu; besides making it more efficient to use the state for simple theft, it prevented the rise of rivals. Well, like any number of dictators, really.

It looks to me more like a loss of power by Qaddafi wouldn't really leave a coherent Libyan government for the TNC to take over.

It'd be a far different context, but it's been likewise up in the air just what would have happened to Libya without a rebellion (from Benghazi again) or war or civil war were Qaddafi to have died or otherwise lost the capacity to control any more.

I mean, maybe there will be a pronouncement of a national government, and maybe even a serious effort to initiate one; I'm just doubtful it would be that coherent, and that's presuming that the east was really committed to it rather than mainly their regional autonomy.

Or not. I'm no expert.

The African Union has apparently had enough of making strong suggestions and requests to Qaddafi in private. It's now openly calling for Qaddafi to step down.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201106100249.html

"Really, what set the American case apart was that we'd already had something close to independence, and the 'revolution' was our reaction to King George's effort to take it away. Closer to fighting off an invasion, than a real revolution, IMO. The Confederation, followed by the Federation, might have been new, but the state governments already existed." That sort of makes my point better than I did. The colonies had evolved a representational government and were unwilling to have it changed. They, therefore went to war.

The best chance for changing a dictatorship to a representational government comes, I believe, from a non violent protest in the manner of what happened in Egypt. Even then, the chances of escaping a new dictatorial government are slim. Libya escalated from nonviolent protests to violence rapidly and now is engaged inan all out war much of which is being waged by outside powers (NATO). Yes, there are and will be casualties in a peaceful resistance, however, there will be more in a violent protest and the chances of a beneficial outcome diminish rapidly.

violent overthrows never lead to a new system of governance

Utter nonsense. History is full of violent overthrows that led to monarchies, for example, being replaced by completely different (non-monarchic) systems of government, e.g. the English Revolution of the 17th century and the Russian Revolution of 1917.

If the claim is that subsequent "systems of governance" were essentially the same because they were not democracies, this is still wrong. See, e.g., the Mexican Revolution of 1911ff. or the Indonesian Revolution of 1945ff, both of which ended in constitutional democracies.

Conversely, various democratically elected governments throughout the world have been subject to "violent overthrow" by complete (non-democratic) bastards, e.g., the Spanish Civil War.

In other words, whatever way you slice it, this is arrant nonsense.

A quite separate, much more interesting, but much more frustrating question is "What does it take to sustain fragile democratic institutions in the face of inevitable opposition to them (often from supporters of the Ancien Regime)?" It's not easy, and it's not surprising that upheavals that manage to create temporarily democratic institutions (e.g., the French Revolution) often lapse back into something more authoritarian.

But claiming that all "violent overthrows" are effectively pointless is itself beyond pointless.

I'm not that surprised that there is so little logistical depth.

The US has something of a history of, after (usually winning) a conflict, cutting back massively on logistics. Which means that, next time a war starts, we spend a year or so ramping up production of supplies. Only the fact that we've historically had a huge industrial infrastructure has let us get away with it. It appears that Europe has absorbed that bit of American culture (among others).

"Good generals study strategy; great generals study logistics." I wonder if there is anything similar for politicians....

WJ, it's far more than logistical depth.

dr ngo, Are you seriously stating that the Russian government replacing the Tsar was not an oppressive dictatorship. They even rearrested most of the political prisoners who had been released. The prisons remained full and the techniques of torture and mental abuse were unchanged. The Tsar was replaced by a new dictator.

The British monarchy evolved over a long period of time from monarchy to representational government with a figurehead monarchy. Much if not most of our nation's philosophy of governance came from British thought.

Ed Haines, are you seriously trying to teach me history?

McTex, quite so. (The phrase was lifted from a prior comment someone else left.) It might be more complete to say that, once we win a war, we (mentally, at least) go home, and mostly forget about it. At least the parts about how much life and treasure was lost while we ramped up the last time.

"Ramped up" including not only building the equipment and munitions, and raising and training the military personnel, but making also the mental adjustment to the fact that we are going to have to do so. Eventually, we do so. But it either takes a long time (WW I), or a big event (Pearl Harbor, 9/11) to get us going.

I suppose there is an up side of that, especially for the rest of the world. If we didn't take that approach we could more than once have built an empire larger than any other the world has ever seen. (I'm talking military empire here, not just business and a culture that is grabbed piecemeal by others.) But it always seems, to most of us, like too much trouble for the "glory."

dr ngo, I am not attempting to teach you anything alone history. However, having read The Gulag Archipelago and a number of related books, I cannot fathom considering the government replacing that of the Tsar as anything but a brutally oppressive dictatorship.

I, for one am less concerned about governments attempting to institute democracy than I am in them instituting freedoms and guarantees of such basics as open speech, protest, assembly, and ownership of property. Many democracies have managed to show that these are not necessarily guaranteed by democracy. Indeed, even our so called democracy often usurps property, infringes upon free expression of faith (or denial of faith), and speech. Fortunately, the courts have generally overruled the majority and maintained our freedoms.

No one (here) is denying that there was a "brutally oppressive dictatorship" in post-revolutionary Russia. That does not make a dictatorship of the proletariat guided by a vanguard party the same "system of governance" as a hereditary constitutional monarchy backed by the Orthodox Church.

So: fail.

Nor would a single case, even if accepted, prove your (universal) contention that "violent overthrows never lead to a new system of governance." I have given you several other examples of where they did exactly that, and could provide more, if I could be bothered.

So: FAIL

And if you had submitted this kind of grand generalization in any of the university history courses I taught for thirty years on three continents, you would be "Failing" for real.

dr ngo, and that's before you mark him down for not even mentioning the Kerensky government that was sandwiched in between the Tsar and the Communist coup. Arguably that short-lived experiment with a parliamentary government was too brief to count for the purposes of discussing "what comes after." But it was not so obvious at the time that it was doomed.

Also, if we are going to argue over what counts as "coming next" we could probably stand to settle first on how long a successor government has to endure in order to "count". Just to kick-start the discussion, I would say that 3 months is too short, and anything over 3 years is definitely long enough. Anyone want to work on narrowing the grey area a bit?

How about 1000 days - roughly the length of JFK's administration, or Anne Boleyn's reign as Queen of England? ;}

I surrender. However, anyone want to take bets on what type of government will next rule in Libya?

I'm pretty sanguine about the prospects for Libya if the rebels win. In the old model of revolution, by coup, the replacement governments, while different, were generally not better than those overthrown. But the nature of revolution changed around 1980 to revolution by civil societies with the military and elites signing on late and generally without a leadership role. In the new era the majority of revolutions result in an improvement. It takes a pretty strong repressive regime to suppress civil society, and it's just hard to put that together in the aftermath of a revolution where the government loses control rather than gets taken over.

I think it's a virtual certainty that Libya will be a officially a parliamentary democracy if Qaddafi is overthrown. That's basically universal after successful grassroots revolutions these days. The question will be to what extent will it get co-opted later. Co-option like Iran, where the Constitution was written with antidemocratic boobytraps is very unlikely, because I don't see an ideological force that can overcome the near-universal prescription for representative systems. Co-option in the manner of Belarus or Russia is fairly plausible, but I think it's likely to be much better than under Qaddafi. The need to keep up the form of democracy and the vastly increased power of bottom-up organizing will hold any strongman back.

As a public service, Eric's links:

How NATO is like a boyfriend/girlfriend who won't commit Michael Cohen

Gates: NATO a Two-Tiered Alliance with a Dim, Dismal Future James Joyner

As another public service, the HTML for links:

{a href="http://link.url"}linkable text readers will see{/a}

Replace curly brackets with pointy brackets.
Copy into an easily accessed text file.
Paste as necessary.

With respect to the assertion that the Egyptian uprising was a completely non-violent one: On January 28, Egyptians torched many police stations and the NDP headquarters in at least four cities. On Feb. 1-3, a continuous, pitched battle of rock throwing by demonstrators against Mubarak thugs was what held Tahrir Square for the people. (Please note I'm not making an equivalence of the violence. The regime thugs initiated the assault, and regime snipers shot dead at least two of the rock-throwing defenders and wounded a dozen more.)

Bear in mind, too, that the uprising took place not only in Cairo but in Alexandria, Suez, and other cities of the periphery, with much less English-language media scrutiny. That's where in fact most of the 800+ Egyptians who were killed between Jan. 25 and Feb. 11 died. In Suez, particularly violent assaults by the regime's police were met by violent resistance; protests quickly became pitched battles.

There were dramatic instances of nonviolent resistance (e.g., prayer on a crucial bridge to Tahrir on Jan. 28 that was the last stand of the riot police), but there was also violent resistance to attack -- in Cairo and elsewhere.

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