A Trumpian Peace Deal in Libya?
In an article for Foreign Affairs, Jason Pack and Nate Mason write that the moment is ripe for alternative mediation efforts in Libya—outside of the existing UN framework — and argue there are good reasons for the Trump administration to pay attention to Libya sooner rather than later, as the conflict is evolving in ways that threaten U.S. interests. They argue that only the United States can offer full entry into the global economy and give international legitimacy to the various Libyan factions. Pack and Mason suggest the appointment of a special presidential envoy for Libya.
Trump’s signature policy towards Libya should be the appointment of a presidential envoy—akin to the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, a position currently held by Brett McGurk. Only a presidential envoy can make the United States primus inter pares among Western nations in setting and coordinating policy towards Libya. Up to and until now, the British, French, Italians, and the UN have all exercised leadership in some capacity when it comes to Libya. Washington has only taken control when it comes to airstrikes and counterterror policy. It was a bit player in the negotiations to broker a unity government or to deal with postwar reconstruction. This muddled leadership has led to poorly coordinated and incoherent policy. If the United States wants to end the civil war Libya, it must no longer lead from behind. It must actually lead.
A special presidential envoy focused solely on Libya would have the power to coordinate all federal agencies’ policies towards Libya, supersede the flawed UN process, and coordinate the special envoys of the informal P-6 on Libya (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States). The envoy would also delegate to various European allies complementary roles in making a new Libya policy succeed. The envoy would need to be able to demonstrate—to both various Libyan factions and European chancelleries and envoys—that he has access to the president and is the only font of government policy on Libya. The role of the State Department’s Special Envoy for Libya should be eliminated because it lacks sufficient authority over the other federal departments that are integral to U.S. policy toward Libya.
Trump’s transition team is already thinking seriously about Libya and recalibrating policy toward the Middle East. Phillip Escaravage, a member of the Forbes publishing family who has a decade of experience focusing on Libya, has been rumored as a possible pick for POTUS Special Envoy for Libya or Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs. The Forbes family were early Trump supporters and represent the kind of private sector know-how the president-elect prizes.
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