Leading from behind in Libya

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have come out well with the limited role they gave to U.S. support of the now victorious Libyan insurgents. President Gaddafi was removed from power (and life) without the help of American boots on the ground. It was a victory by Libyans and the outcome, and they are just at the beginning of chapter two, will be theirs to celebrate or lament.

The American approach this time around has several advantages. The hit on our over taxed budget was small and is likely to remain small. But more importantly, the resentment that always follows eventually when our (or any ones) troops occupy a country will be missing. This will also contain long run costs and improve American security.

More important still is the almost certainty that the prospects for Libya to develop a liberal democracy that respects its citizens are larger if they must build it themselves. If they fail, that will be theirs as well.  A viable government that respects human rights cannot be simply stepped into no matter how good a model we might give them. It must be the product of give and take and negotiation amount competing Libya groups. Libya is now entering into such an internal struggle. We should take the side of proper principles of government and human respect, but not the side of a particular group. President Obama’s reserve in limiting American involvement makes such a process among Libyans possible. It will not be easy and I wish them well.

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About wcoats

Dr. Warren L. Coats specializes in advising central banks on monetary policy, and in the development of their capacity to formulate and implement monetary policy. He is retired from the International Monetary Fund, where, as Assistant Director of the Monetary and Financial Systems Department, he led missions to over twenty countries. Before then, he served as Visiting Economist to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and to the World Bank, and was Assistant Prof of Economics at the Univ. of Virginia from 1970-75. Most recently he was Senior Monetary Policy Advisor to the Central Bank of Iraq; an IMF consultant to the central banks of Afghanistan, Kenya and Zimbabwe; and a Deloitte/USAID advisor to the Government of South Sudan. He is currently a member of the Editorial Board of the Cayman Financial Review and until the end of 2013 was a member of the IMF program team for Afghanistan. His most recent book is entitled "One Currency for Bosnia: Creating the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina."
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