The pictures from Tripoli are bitter sweet. For every picture of someone happy that the dictator has been pulled down and his cruelty limited, there is a picture of lawlessness. We see more deaths and injuries, and apparently indiscriminate firing of a wide range of weapons.
The sooner the transitional government establishes some kind of control the better. The sooner the people can be disarmed and well trained forces of order can be in charge, the better. It is not going to be an easy task. It is one best carried out by those directly involved, not by UK or US forces. If the new state is to have a chance of winning hearts and minds, and enjoying the full loyalty of most of the people most of the time, it must not be a puppet regime of Nato. There needs to be support for a new system and form of government and constitution across the spectrum, including from most of those who backed the previous regime.
Nato’s task was to prevent civilian casualties where it could do so by precision intervention from the air. Nato must avoid mission creep. The heavy exchanges of fire street to street that we now witness cannot be stopped by the kind of interventions NATO is good at.
The sooner order is established by some group of forces in Tripoli, the sooner the new government can get on with re-establishing power supplies, water, and the other basics. Living in Tripoli in recent days must have been fraught with danger and difficulty. We all, I am sure, wish the Lilbyan people well in re-establishing a governing authority. We hope they will choose one which is kinder to them, but it will also need to be one which exerts enough power to curb the various armed groups and individuals who are currently trying to establish their own positions in a very fluid situation.