Indefinite Chaos or Cyrenaica

Looking at what is going on in Libya, I think we’re moving towards a scenario where foreign intervention removes Gaddafi from power, with extreme force. The release of US drones, the commitment to regime change from several nations, the amping up of military resources of Italy and France, I think that we are looking at will be, or is at least planned to be, a quick, surgical intervention of ground troops into Tripolitania, to defeat the hazard Loyalist forces, and either kill or capture the Colonel. Nothing is that simple, naturally, as the more recent friendly fire by NATO planes has shown (wonder how much more of that the rebels will be willing to put up with?).

The aftermath is the important part of course. The United States has neither the drive, the resources or the strategic interest to justify any kind of post-war involvement. France and Italy, and the rest of Europe, might have high hopes, but they can’t do it either. The Arab League can hardly be relied upon. Some sort of UN mission, whether it is one that involved full scale nation building and peace enforcement, or a minimal effort designed to simply prop up the rebels, will be needed.

Regardless, Libya will be a mess. It will have no strong standing army, no effective police force, and will be a nation whose infrastructure is in tatters. International opinion will insist on elections, which will distract from the rebuilding effort. Loyalists and Loyalist soldiers will remain a threat, through political or insurgent subversion. And the Benghazi based council will simply be faced with a country that wants promised change, change that the rebels are actually incapable of bringing. This will create resentment, as we are beginning to see in Tunisia.

There is another option to the above.

Libya was created in 1951 by the mashing together of two states – Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. Cyrenaica was where the Royal family came from and it is where the rebellion is centred. All of the rebels main support, main bases, cities and political structure are within Cyrenaica.

Stop fighting. Call a ceasefire. Split Libya up. Cyrenaica has the roots for nationhood and would severely reduce the task facing rebel leaders. In conjunction with a UN peacekeeping force at the border (western boots on the ground are an inevitability anyway) in order to stop the battered remnants of both armies from re-igniting the conflict, such a state could be free to build itself up without having to deal with remaining loyalists. Such a state can freely receive support from the international community, as it is needed.

Meanwhile, Gaddafi’s land is cut in two, his influence, population and resources reduced. He becomes less of a threat as a result.

I do not think that a schism is unfeasible or unwise. It would solve many problems and has an historical precedent. Moreover, I think that it is an option that will reduce bloodshed, both in avoiding a large-scale foreign intervention to oust Gaddafi, and the larger scale civil conflict that any rebel administration would face.

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