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NATO, US must shore up Libya

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Another argument against helping Libya is that the country is rich and ought to pay its own way. This is true in general. Libya should eventually be expected to finance its own reconstruction.

But allowing the financial costs to thwart efforts to stabilize the country now would be penny-wise and pound-foolish. The current Libyan government is too disorganized and distracted to compensate NATO for the cost of such a mission right now. If security in Libya deteriorates further, the price will be very high for all parties.

A conference in Paris Feb. 12 aimed to reorient the light-footprint approach the US and its allies adopted after the war. France re-asserted its intention to support the deployment of European experts to help Libya get its security situation under control. But when that assistance will arrive remains uncertain, and while it is welcome, it is unlikely to be enough.

The light footprint approach makes sense and could still work. But what exists now, especially in the wake of the Benghazi attacks, looks more like a no-footprint approach.

It’s time that the US takes the lead in orchestrating a modest reengagement in securing Libya’s future.

Christopher Chivvis is a senior political scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and author of “Toppling Qaddafi,” a forthcoming book on NATO’s intervention in Libya.

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