Removing a regime is much easier than putting a new one in its place. Ostensibly united to prevent further massacres by Gaddhafi, a coalition of Cerenician rebels and international allies have successfully vanquished Gaddhafi’s regime in Tripoli.
This outcome — the ouster of Gaddhafi — was never in doubt. The international allies possessed unrivaled control of the air and sea, and the regime, retrenched in the capital city, could not recapture Benghazi as long as they possessed international backing.
This putative humanitarian effort, however, is now in its most fragile phase: what can the new Libyan regime and its international allies do to forge a peace worthy of the war they’ve won?
The most important thing the regime must do is create a stable political coalition that is capable of navigating the difficult process of building a Libyan state. Building a stable political coalition is very difficult — and its even more difficult when the state is largely dependent on foreign funds and petrodollars to function.
This new state may not be able to work for all of its people — even the American state is heavily tilted toward the mega-rich and large corporations — but the people should not fear the state. Importantly, elites have to believe that they have more to fear from the absence of a functioning state than the presence of a functioning state.
Non-elites, “the people”, on the other hand, need accountability from their political leaders and political institutions. The people must believe that even when they cannot observe the political process that it is fundamentally concerned with working for them (rather than against them), and that expressions of popular pressure will not result in suspicious detentions or intimidation.
There are five things the United States and its allies can do to encourage this process.
1. The United States has to state unequivocally that it will not recognize or release assets to any regime that engages in mass killings, mass incarceration or ethnic cleansing. There should be zero tolerance for political manipulation that involves violence against civilians.
2. The United States should restrict its oil companies, and aid Libya in restricting other foreign oil companies from ownership of Libya’s natural resources. Instead, the US should encourage Libya to privatize its oil interests and nationalized business by selling them to local businessmen and engage in: affirmative action to ensure demographic balance; heavily regulation to encourage tax compliance; and strictly limit foreign owned shares of these companies to keep the tax base local. This privatization can also be partial through the issuance of common stock that pays dividends based on revenue. The key is that the funds can’t just go into a government slush fund; there needs to be another actor to keep the government accountable to encourage it to develop taxation capacities.
3. The United States should push progressive fiscal policies. It must re-issue Libyan foreign debt to Libyan capitalists and shareholders; constitutional limits on the amount of yearly government spending that can come from oil-based revenues, debt financing, or foreign aid. Tie foreign aid to regular and full payments on domestic debt. Tie new international loans to first being able to raise that amount of debt domestically.
4. Partner with Europe to create a new civil society capable of sustaining a professional class that has an interest in a functioning government
5. Lastly, the The United States should push for a regular Census, freedom of peaceful association, and freedom of speech. Political representation and citizenship must become linked to residence to prevent xenophonia, and Libya must allow for the flourishing of all speech — even speech that we disagree with.