hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Monday, 22 August 2011

Libya: Implementing the Peace


“A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!”  Richard III by William Shakespeare

Alphen, The Netherlands, 22 August. Funny how history plays games. On this day in England in 1485 King Richard III lost the battle of Bosworth Field to Henry Tudor. The rest, as they say (they always say, ‘as they say’) is history. In Shakespeare’s play the defeated king pleads for a horse so he can flee. I would imagine Colonel (soon-to-be retired) Gadhafi probably wishes for just such a beast, and a fast one at that. It is also nigh on ten years since 911 and over the decade that has followed if there is one lesson that has surely been learnt from Afghanistan and Iraq it is this; there can be no ‘victory’ unless the peace has been properly planned for.

Things move quickly when a regime cracks, and with the former rebels now suddenly controlling four-fifths of Tripoli, the immediate end-game is afoot. For a short time celebrations can be permitted. However, the real work starts now and experience from Afghanistan and Iraq suggest planning for the peace will not be easy.

I have just done an interview for the BBC’s flagship radio news programme, “The Today Programme”. I made the following points concerning the bumpy political road that inevitably lies ahead:

1. Establish limits to outside influence: We outsiders need to be clear about our role and our legitimate objectives – to help the Libyan people establish a durable and legitimate political settlement.

2. Experience from Afghanistan and Iraq suggests that all parties to the conflict must be involved in political reconciliation early. If not an insurgency will gain ground. This is a particularly dangerous moment for Libya because if the four key tribes that supported Gadhafi begin to feel grievance an insurgency will develop.

3. Reprisal killings must be prevented and humanitarian suffering alleviated rapidly and even-handedly.

4. A seat of government must be rapidly established and protected.

5. A clear political timetable for transition must be established early. From experience a transitional regime will have roughly six months to a year to establish political legitimacy before inevitably disappointment sets in amongst fellow-travellers. No more than 15% of the population are what might be termed hard-core supporters of the former rebels.

6. Whilst disarmament and rehabilitation must begin early key state institutions such as the armed forces, essential services and the judicial system must be preserved so they can provide stability in transition. To that end, senior members of the Gadhafi regime charged under law must be seen to get a fair trial.

7. National elections must be woven into a new constitution and take place at the very latest two years from today. Safeguards must be built in

8. Outside support for the transitional government must be consistent, commensurate with the immediate humanitarian challenge, but subtle with a clear and stated goal of getting Libya back on its political economic feet early. Like Iraq Libya’s oil revenues will be critical and must be seen to benefit the Libyan people, not foreign companies.

9. International institutions must be seen to lead the support and assistance effort. A new UN Security Council resolution is now needed to legitimise support from key regional actors, the Arab League, the African Union and, of course, the European Union. Libya is, after all, in our neighbourhood.

10. Security, stabilisation and development are not sequential. They must be enacted in parallel.

Finally, the process must be civilian-led and be seen to be so. If the transition in Libya works a shining precedent will be established that burns bright across the Middle East. Fail and this is just the end of phase one in just another grubby, nasty “war amongst the people”, as Sir Rupert Smith once so eloquently put it.

And one final parochial thought. The British Armed Forces have played a critical role in enabling the former Libyan rebels to regain their country from Gadhafi. They remain a superb tool of and for British influence. I only hope the British Government now realises that and stops cutting them to the point of impotence. The world will never permit we British simply to get off the roundabout. Nor should we ourselves countenance such a retreat.

Julian Lindley-French



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