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How Can Plans Emerge for a New Libya With Gadhafi Still at Large?

September 1, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
Representatives from 60 countries, including the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia, gathered Thursday in Paris for a conference about Libya's transition following Moammar Gadhafi's 42-year rule. Jeffrey Brown discusses the West's role in the country's transition with the International Crisis Group's Robert Malley.
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JEFFREY BROWN: And we look more at the role of the West now with Robert Malley. He worked in the National Security Council in the Clinton White House, and is now program director for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group.

Welcome to you.

ROBERT MALLEY, International Crisis Group: Thanks.

JEFFREY BROWN: When you listen to Secretary Clinton there, and you think about how — about how the U.S. and West — and the West can help Libya now, what are the main considerations?

ROBERT MALLEY: I think the first consideration is what’s happening in Libya today. What are the main challenges? And then you work backyards and see, can the international community help?

Number one is to make sure that the country remains together, in other words, that you don’t have these divisions, you don’t have a witch-hunt, you don’t have part of the country that feels that the other part is taking revenge. And that is something we have — we have experience from Iraq, and that is that the international community could encourage the new leaders to be as inclusive as possible, as forgiving as possible.

JEFFREY BROWN: When you say the new leaders, part one, I guess, is determining to who we are really dealing with, right?

ROBERT MALLEY: That’s the other question.

We — the West and the U.S. has recognized the Transitional National Council as the legitimate representative. But that begs the question of whether they are united and whether there are other forces who are going to participate in the scramble for spoils and for power.

And the other thing outsiders can do is really encourage them to come together and avoid the kind of internal divisions that would be harmful for the future, though they’re unavoidable. Any revolution is followed by a scramble for power. That’s what they’re about.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, particularly when there’s been one-man — one-party/one-man rule for so long, lots and lots of people worked for and with this guy, right?

ROBERT MALLEY: Well, that goes to the first point about justice and reconciliation. A lot of people had to work for him.

Again, let’s take that page out of — from the book on Iraq. A lot of people had to work for the Baathist regime in Iraq. A lot of people had to work in this system. You can’t exclude them. That’s a point that Secretary Clinton has made repeatedly. You can’t exclude them. Otherwise, number one, you are going to deprive yourself of real talent, and, number two, you are going to sow the seeds of a possible future insurgency.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, what about the security factor? Even as the conflict continues, there have got to be a lot of concerns about — and, again, we have various models to look back at, right?

ROBERT MALLEY: Right.

Well, I mean, a person who works for me in Libya, in Tripoli, tells me the security situation is much better and getting better by the day. And that’s obviously good news. It’s not like Baghdad was after the fall. On the other hand, this is a country in which almost everyone has weapons. It’s a country where there are divisions. And it is a country where people are going to be fighting because there’s a big pie they want to get a piece of.

So disarming the militias, trying to get the weapons and gathering them, and, again, making sure that you include as many people as possible is going to be challenge number one for the people who are going to rule the future Libya.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon today called on the Security Council to deploy a civilian mission to help stabilize Libya.

Now, what — what would it do and how would it do it coming from the outside?

ROBERT MALLEY: Well, the first point is, you don’t want to do too much from the outside, another lesson from Iraq. I mean, a diplomat said recently there are lessons to be learned; there aren’t lessons to be taught.

In other words, let’s be modest in how we try to go about telling the Libyans what to do. That said, they’re in need of some assistance, technical expertise in certain technical areas. In governance, it’s still — and in Tripoli itself, there still is a shortage of water, electricity. So, there are things that they’re going to need outside help, they’re going to welcome outside help. I think it has to be done with a very modest touch to avoid the impression that outsiders are coming to tell them what to do.

JEFFREY BROWN: Not to have a heavy hand, not to show that…

ROBERT MALLEY: That’s right.

JEFFREY BROWN: … we know better or we’re running the show, certainly.

ROBERT MALLEY: Because we often don’t know better. I think, again, history shows that.

JEFFREY BROWN: The – another issue, of course, is the money issue. That was discussed today in Paris. And in that press conference, not in what we showed, but I was watching, and Secretary Clinton said the money will be disbursed, but she said, “It must be clear to Libyans that this money is being used to help the Libyan people.”

Now, that’s an example that you’re talking about, making sure the…

ROBERT MALLEY: Right.

JEFFREY BROWN: … it’s being used correctly, because it always — it is not always used that way, right?

ROBERT MALLEY: And one of the things, again, that outside help could provide is ensuring transparency in where the money goes, how it’s spent, who is using it.

We have seen again too many cases where money gets used in ways that it wasn’t intended to be. Libya will have a lot of money once all the frozen assets are unfrozen. But that money is going to have to be spent wisely, and it’s going to have to be spent both on immediate improvements, but also in the longer term in ways that Libyans will feel is accountable, they know where it’s going, and they know that it’s going to benefit them.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, what do you make of the continued NATO involvement at this point? What kind of debates or discussions must be going on at that level about what exactly they’d be doing?

ROBERT MALLEY: Well, the military phase is phasing out, one would hope. I mean, Secretary Clinton said we’re going to continue that, and they’re providing assistance.

I would hope to see that reduced as quickly as possible to minimum, and to make it less of a military enterprise, and more a political attempt by the new Libyan leaders to be as inclusive — as I said, as inclusive as possible.

There is a risk in some of these pockets of resistance that they see the rebels or the new leaders not as liberators, but as subjugators, that they’re seeing that they’re coming to impose their way. And the more it’s a military confrontation, as opposed to a negotiation, the worse it will be, which is why I think it’s a good thing that we heard today the Libyan rulers say, the Libyan authorities, we’re going to extend the deadline.

You don’t want to go in forcibly and simply antagonize cities or villages that are still loyal to Gadhafi.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, when you look longer term, you talk about business ties, cultural ties, so on. Do you plant the seeds for those things now? Are there ways that we have learned from experience that you get that going now, even as the fighting continues, or is that just not worth thinking about…

ROBERT MALLEY: I mean, the fighting is continuing in some pockets.

JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

ROBERT MALLEY: There’s still things you could do. I just think that we need to be very careful about thinking what in the U.S. or the West, by helping certain groups, human rights groups, democracy activists, that we’re going to predetermine who are going to be the future rulers of Libya.

That’s going to be decided by Libya. And I think, as in all these revolutions, in fact, in all revolutions, the people who come out ahead or the people who lead the revolution are not necessarily the ones who are going to rule after the revolution.

And however much we might want to help certain groups, we’re not the ones who are going to decide. It is going to be decided over there, and we are going to have to live with whatever the outcome is.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Rob Malley, thanks so much.

ROBERT MALLEY: Thank you.