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The National Transition Council in Libya--which is likely to direct the transition from Gaddafi's regime--has tried to take a very different course, assuring all Libyans that they will be part of the new Libya. This, in contrast to the ill-conceived demobilization of Saddam's military after Baghdad's fall. In Benghazi, the council has retained the police force and all administrators and experts who could help keep order and maintain basic services. As Tripoli was falling, Mahmoud Jibril, a senior figure in the council, put out a statement urging the rebels not to loot, engage in reprisals or in any way "sully the final page of the revolution." Said he: "The eyes of the world are upon us."
Such statements might not mean much in the fires of a revolution. Gaddafi's 42-year reign of madness and cruelty caused much pain and turmoil, and people might want a certain measure of revenge. But it is worth the effort to tame these passions. The council has also made clear that it will try to be as inclusive as possible and not excommunicate members of the old ruling order. This is perhaps inevitable, given that many of the senior figures in the Libyan opposition recently defected from the regime. This might dull the revolution's luster but is actually a virtue. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the fact that members of the influential old guard felt pushed out and isolated--Sunnis and Pashtun respectively--meant that national reconciliation and thus peace became impossible. In situations like this, you can usually have justice or you can have order, but you can't have both.
The Libyan intervention offers a new model for the West. It was a humanitarian mission with strategic interests as well--support for the Arab Spring and the new aspirations of the people of the Middle East. It was also a new model in that it involved an America that insisted on legitimacy and burden sharing, that allowed the locals to own their revolution. That means, however, that it is in the hands of the Libyans. They can avoid the mistakes of Iraq, which makes the challenge before them even more daunting. But it is a challenge they have eagerly sought and one for which they will find help from friends around the world.