Global Ethics Corner: Libya After Qaddafi: Redefining our Responsibilities

August 26, 2011

In the aftermath of regime change, does the "responsibility to protect" change too?

With the prospect of a rebel victory in Libya, all eyes have turned to NATO. Having won accolades for their multilateral intervention, Europe and the U.S. must now decide their role in Libya post-Qaddafi.

Libya's rebels are a fractious group. No one knows if they will remain united—let alone peaceful—once Qaddafi is gone.

Libya also lacks a tradition of democracy. There are no functional institutions for Libyans to draw upon.

Given such uncertainty, what is the international community's responsibility in the months, and possibly, years to come? Should NATO pack up and go?

For many, the answer is yes. They say that NATO overstepped its bounds in Libya. To avoid mission creep, the U.S. and Europe must reset their sites on domestic concerns.

Others question the utility of an international presence. They say Libya's future must be of its own making. An international presence will only undermine indigenous capacities and inflame anti-Western sentiment.

Proponents of an international presence make a different case.

They say Libya stands on the brink of a bloody civil war. Having justified their intervention on humanitarian grounds, NATO member states should ensure that those they supported do not repeat Qaddafi's wrongs.

Others advocate a robust civilian presence. They say foreign aid can compensate for rebels' political inexperience. International advisors can ease Libya's transition and foster stability by helping to build political parties, institutions, and a constitution.

As Libya prepares for its future, do NATO member states have a moral responsibility to protect peace and stability?

What do you think?

By Marlene Spoerri

For more information see:

Daniel Serwer, 'Post-Qaddafi Instability in Libya', Contingency Planning Memorandum No. 12, August 2011.

Photo Credits in order of Appearance:

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/U.S. Navy photo
Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison/U.S. Air Force photo
Nasser Nouri
Libby is true (name translated from Arabic in Google translation)
Pete Souza
Eric Parker
Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander/U.S. Army
Nasser Nouri
Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Katrina Beeler/U.S. Navy Photo
Staff Sgt. Brendan Stephens/U.S. Army photo
Pete Souza
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