Libya: Part II

What will happen next in Libya and what should we do?

As we attempt to save the Republic by trimming government back to size (back to what we can afford and back to what only government can do), surely we can forego a few of wars the neocons would like to plunge us into. Actually my warning cries as we were sliding into another one in Libya had much more to do with the unlearned lessons of the past about how best to influence future event for the better than with the wasting of more precious treasure (lives and other resources). To his rather bumbling credit, President Obama gave in to the pressures of the warmongers reluctantly and only partially in Libya. Our involvement has been largely supportive of more direct, though also limited, NATO support for the rebels.

But here we are at the beginning of Part II of the Libya drama. The rebels seem to have finally toppled the truly crazed Gaddafi. We can all cheer his demise, but what will follow? Who are the rebels and where are they planning? We actually know more about them than when we first chose to support them (a collection of different tribes, political philosophies, and religious views, some good and some bad). Who will emerge on top and what will the struggle for dominance of the new regime be like? Will the average Libyan be better off or worse off? It is impossible to know at this point.

Craig Whitlock reports some interesting reactions to the Libyan civil war from the area in yesterday’s Washington Post, “Libyan rebels renew hopes of Arab Spring”

“If the shooting quickly subsides and the Libyan rebels are able to build a functioning central government, it would give further encouragement to protesters in the streets of Damascus and Sanaa. But if Libya descends into factionalism or tribal warfare — with scenes reminiscent of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein — then ardor for the Arab Spring could cool again.

“‘People are going to be looking at how this plays out very, very closely,’ said Jon B. Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. ‘It’s easy to agree that the leader must go. It’s much harder to agree on what comes next.’

“Some Palestinian activists said that their aspirations, too, had been buoyed by the success of the Libyan rebels but that NATO’s involvement had taken the sheen off the results.

“‘It is getting a cautious welcome because it was achieved with foreign intervention rather than by the people themselves, as was the case in Egypt,’ said Hani al-Masri, a political analyst in Ramallah, West Bank. ‘Some people are calling it liberation through occupation. The Egyptian experience was inspiring. In Libya, we have to wait and see.’”

My pessimism about our ability to improve the world (and our safety) with armies does not mean that I think we should do nothing in Libya or elsewhere to promote a better world (rule of law, respect for human liberty and rights). We know a lot about the blessings of liberty and the institutions (not necessarily, or even very often, just like our own) that help promote and preserve it. We have an interest, both humanitarian and national self-interest, in doing our best to share our knowledge and to promote sound governance and free markets in Libya and elsewhere. This is often done best by international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It cannot be successfully imposed from outside. It must to the form of support and encouragement to the indigenous forces for good (if we think we know who they are).

I commend to you the op-ed piece on this subject in the The Washington Post by Stephen Hadley on August 18th: “Our chance to shape change in North Africa and the Mideast”.

Author: Warren Coats

I specialize in advising central banks on monetary policy and the development of the capacity to formulate and implement monetary policy.  I joined the International Monetary Fund in 1975 from which I retired in 2003 as Assistant Director of the Monetary and Financial Systems Department. While at the IMF I led or participated in missions to the central banks of over twenty countries (including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgystan, Moldova, Serbia, Turkey, West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Zimbabwe) and was seconded as a visiting economist to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (1979-80), and to the World Bank's World Development Report team in 1989.  After retirement from the IMF I was a member of the Board of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority from 2003-10 and of the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review from 2010-2017.  Prior to joining the IMF I was Assistant Prof of Economics at UVa from 1970-75.  I am currently a fellow of Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise.  In March 2019 Central Banking Journal awarded me for my “Outstanding Contribution for Capacity Building.”  My recent books are One Currency for Bosnia: Creating the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina; My Travels in the Former Soviet Union; My Travels to Afghanistan; My Travels to Jerusalem; and My Travels to Baghdad. I have a BA in Economics from the UC Berkeley and a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago. My dissertation committee was chaired by Milton Friedman and included Robert J. Gordon.

2 thoughts on “Libya: Part II”

  1. I was hesitant about the US (military) involvement in Libya. I dreaded a protracted effort by disorganized rebels. I’m surprised by the relative speed of the apparent liberation. The world (especially the European need for oil) cannot afford another post-Saddam transition of years. Of course, I blame the GW Bush Administration for the Iraq disasters–first, because we never should have invaded and, second, because our military mishandled & — to use a Bushism — misunderestimated the “ease” of the transition to an interim gov’t.

    [You might know that I think GW Bush was one of the worst, if not the worst, leaders this country has ever had. I also believe that he is personally more evil than stupid & that time eventually will reveal much more of what I’m talking about. Don’t get me started on GW’s Iraq & the “Secret Family,” etc. I early on saw extreme negatives (in terms of integrity) that others did not see in GW’s father. Again, time will tell more of the truth. Sorry that I digress on an obsession of mine–the Bush family!]

    Given the comparative smoothness of the rebel effort in Liby, I’m optimistic that the US & NATO can learn from the mistakes in Iraq — & from the sidelines the US can help guide a faster & more effective transfer of power in Libya.

    I was in Egypt in June & July. That country is proceeding largely seemlessly to the military’s interim gov’t and I’m optimistic for the future gov’t — with the possible exception of some troubles in Sinai. I taught judges in Cairo in June. The judges’ accounts were inspirational as much as they were amazing, when describing the Egyptian citizens’ control of their neighborhoods–after Mubarek strategically withdrew military & police from protecting citizens in their neighborhoods. Mubarek hoped for an outbreak of broad-based chaos; his citizens prevented that for the most part. (The argument my my owning a gun received another push forward, after hearing the way these citizens had to defend their neighborhoods — sometimes without guns. Egyptian citizens keenly did the job by themselves–amazing & laudatory!

    You’re right. I hope the Libyan transition can be like that in Egypt.

    Despite Obama’s appearance at bumbling–as actually happened for a time with Egypt–I like to think that there is/was a strategy & purpose to some of that apparent bumbling, inconsistency of statements from State & the White House, etc. Same with Libya & other ME countries. Hey, it worked in Egypt, and it’s maintaining itself in Yemen & awkwardly in Bahrain & is now at the stage of “the leader must go” in Syria. If Obama’s processes are deliberate strategy, rather than bumbled delays, the net effect seems to be working to the advantage of bringing down (or as in Yemen, disabling) the dictators — uh, I mean, President in Yemen 😉 . Syria will fall. Yemen will have a replacement President, given medical reasons & the Saudi will “take care of” Bahrain.

    Then, we have to turn our attention to Israel & the greater-than 67-border Palestinians–even those outside England’s “Palestine.” Here’s the pattern: Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, Bahrain (& Saudi Arabia), Yemen, Syria, Libya: The Revolutions (not necessarily in that order, with no revolution yet in some of those countries–only the seeds of revolution).

    Next step: Peace. See the “Face of Revolution” in Tel Aviv in 2011. Citizens of Israel are restless–even the Jews.

    Peace can be the “revolution” by the people of Israel & the people of the Palestinian territories, joined in peace & cooperation by their Arab & Persian neighbors. Think positive.

  2. Well, Ghaddafi had more than forty years to unify Libya behind him and ultimately did not succeed. Now there’s just hoping that whatever kind of regime that is created by the rebels turns out to be an improvement and brings more peace and growth to the Libyans! Niesha Rhines in Niue

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