There's plenty of reason to hope that Gaddafi's reign is finally coming to an end. More ministers have defected. Rebel forces appear to be gaining strength. Even Moscow is now acknowledging that Gaddafi must go. But Max Boot is worried. In particular, he's concerned that NATO hasn't done enough planning for a post-Gaddafi Libya and that policymakers might be forgetting how substantial a stabilization force will need to be:
If the aim is to replicate the Bosnia/Kosovo experience then 330,000 peacekeepers would be called for. If Iraq is the model, 94,000 peacekeepers would be needed. [snip]
Of course, as with all such metrics, these are very rough rules of thumb that need to be adjusted based on circumstances. In Libya there are a number of factors that suggest lesser levels of risk, including the fact that the eastern portion of the country around Benghazi has been relatively peaceful and stable under rebel control. So perhaps even 94,000 peacekeepers won’t be needed. But it is likely that a need substantial if smaller force will still be required, and it is imperative for NATO policymakers to begin planning for such a deployment. As part of that planning process, they need to shine greater public attention on this issue and make clear why a peacekeeping force would need to be sent. Otherwise they risk shock and opposition among publics that have not been prepared for yet another deployment.
The time to begin the process is now—not when Qaddafi is finally toppled. A stabilization force must be ready to go any time, so as to avoid losing valuable time when the day does come.
Boot is right to be worried. I don't have the sense that Western governments are close to being ready to dispatch a stabilization force--or that they've even really grapped with whether to do so. If Gaddafi falls tomorrow, there would likely be a significant period without any significant international presence. If Libya is very lucky, the transition to a post-Gaddafi era may be peaceful. Bt there doesn't seem to be any reason to bet on that.
Of course, a stabilization force need not be mostly Western. Richard Gowan has suggested a largely BRICS force, which might have a more neutral profile. And Russia has recently voiced support for a peaceekeping force, though it has not specified what form it might take. A traditional UN peacekeeping force is an option, though probably not as attractive as when it appeared that Libya was headed toward semi-permanent partition. A blue-helmeted peacekeeping force would actually make less sense in a post-Gaddfi Libya than in one divided between Gaddafi and rebel forces. UN peacekeepers work best when there is a stable ceasefire line; more robust forces will probably be necessary if there is a weak transitional government attempting to run the entire country.