Proposed: Jesse Ventura as Interim President of Libya

21Aug11

Reports at the moment suggest that Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi is about to be ousted.  Assuming that happens, the conversation turns to the question of who will replace him.  Libya, like Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan before it, is divided among multiple groups that do not necessarily get along well with each other.  As in those other places, there is some prospect for violence and a need for possible further international intervention.

Such situations can emerge when the previous strongman (e.g., Tito, Hussein) is eliminated and no one is positioned to take his place.  Groups jockeying for control may consider it in their interests to prevent anyone from any other group from becoming dominant, particularly where it appears likely that the other group will then abuse its power.  This sort of situation can breed corruption and upheaval.

What may be helpful, in such situations, is a proactive rather than reactive international force temporarily supporting an imposed leader whom the clashing parties are likely to consider relatively nonthreatening, while the country gets itself together and stabilizing aspects of society are given time to gain some traction.  Efforts of this nature have not been especially successful in Afghanistan or Iraq; then again, the people who have attained positions of dominance in those places have the reputation of doing so disreputably, and of abusing their positions as just noted.

A somewhat different approach would be to provide preemptive international backing for someone who is very unlikely to want, or to be supported in, any long-term tenure in the position.  In passing, I suggest Jesse Ventura because (1) he is not a typical politician — he became Minnesota’s governor despite not being either a Democrat or Republican, and did not seek reelection; (2) he is on the record against torture; (3) he seems to have been reasonably competent in negotiating among political interests; and (4) he does not seem to have much interest in promoting one religious faction over another.

There are doubtless others who would be better suited for the position, perhaps from relatively neutral or non-western countries (e.g., Switzerland, the Philippines).  The point, in any case, is that it could be helpful to anticipate situations like those arising in Libya, Iraq, and elsewhere by assembling a relatively neutral organization, reminscent of the Red Cross / Red Crescent societies, complete with relatively disinterested leader figures who would be prepared to render political disaster assistance on short notice.  In some cases, a few days of stability at the outset could make a tremendous difference in facilitating a transition to a suitably representative government during a time of upheaval, and in preserving life, liberty, and property over the longer term.

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