What’s Next for Libya?

August 25, 2011 By Jane Kaminski

As the Ghaddafi regime crumbles in Libya, many observers are wondering, what next?   Most agree that U.S. engagement could play an important role in supporting Libya’s transition to democracy with civilian-led programs that emphasize governance and rule of law.  However, budget cuts that could slash up to 20% of non-war funding from the International Affairs Budget may hinder the ability of the State Department to act and implement effective programs at this critical time.

President Obama addressed the situation in Libya, affirming that the United States, along with the international community, would partner with the new government in Libya to build a more democratic, prosperous future.  Libya faces a very difficult transition, but United States assistance can be effective when targeted, as it was in other countries of the Arab Spring.  The U.S. has been quick to demonstrate support for Egypt through economic development programs like those implemented by OPIC, which are already helping to rebuild Egypt’s economy.

In Libya, Daniel Serwer suggests that USAID, the State Department, and Department of Defense should work with local leaders as part of a coordinated international response to support civil society and security programs, which in turn would provide Libya the tools to democratically govern itself.  While each country in the region has its own economic obstacles to overcome, Libya’s economic status is particularly dire, with about 95% of export earnings coming from oil.  Programs targeting diversification of the economy would strengthen and stabilize Libya.

Libya requires immediate humanitarian and political support to get back on its feet following the devastation of civil war, and longer-term leadership is needed to ensure that as Libya recovers and rebuilds, it will move toward a more democratic, free nation, and strong U.S. partner.

At home, GOP 2012 Presidential candidates have made brief statements regarding Libya, but it seems certain to be a topic of debate at the September 7th debate at the Ronald Reagan Library, where we may learn more about the candidates’ views of the U.S. role in the world.