All across the world, leaders are hailing the news that Libyan rebels have advanced into the capital city of Tripoli, poised to bring to an end to the decades-old dictatorship of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi. The end of Qadhafi’s regime is welcome news, but now the United States must focus on developing a strategy for a way forward. The Heritage Foundation’s Jim Phillips explains:

The Obama Administration, which stumbled into the war in Libya with no clear military plan or exit strategy, now must fashion a suitable and acceptable way forward. The Administration’s short-sighted effort to score a quick and easy military victory over Qadhafi’s regime failed to end the threat to civilians in “days not weeks,” as President Barack Obama promised. The administration now must scramble to develop and implement a long term strategy for a post-Qadhafi Libya.

The United States must play a role in helping to ensure that the rule of law and representative government take root in a new Libya. Phillips writes:

If the regime suddenly collapses, the United States must be ready to help the rebel Transitional National Council to stabilize Libya, restore the rule of law and prepare the way for an orderly transition to a new representative government.  Washington should facilitate postwar reconciliation and consensus-building between the many political, tribal and local factions that have emerged to fill vacuums in Libya left by the collapse of the regime.  The United States also can help assist Libya’s reconstruction, particularly the rapid repair of Libya’s damaged oil infrastructure, in order to bring Libyan oil exports back to previous levels as soon as possible.

Phillips explains that it will also be necessary to “remain vigilantly engaged in Libya to help prevent Islamist forces, which appear to make up a small but not insignificant part of the opposition coalition, from hijacking Libya’s future.  Even if Qadhafi soon departs from the scene, Libya is likely to remain a turbulent snake pit with heavily-armed political factions for many years to come.”

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