Mustafa Abdul Jalil, leader of Libya’s interim National Transitional Council, declared the end of the war and the liberation of Libya on Sunday following the controversial death of Moammar Qaddafi. Judging by the tenor of discussion in the United States, you would think that this was an unmitigated disaster — a humiliating end to an illegal war which prevented the UN from acting in Syria, massacred civilians, and opened the door to state failure, warlord violence, reprisals, and radical Islamist tyranny. (Though at least we can be relieved that the rebels can now get their mack on.) That’s quite a catalog of failure dominating the public discourse at a time when the official war has come to an end, and most Libyans are celebrating Qaddafi’s demise and planning a democratic transition towards a post-Qaddafi future. In fact, the intervention in Libya has been broadly successful and has helped to give Libyans the opportunity to build the country which they so deeply deserve.
There’s every reason to be cautious about Libya’s future, of course. There will be massive challenges facing the emerging new country, from independent militias to tribal and regional conflicts to the legacy of decades of the systematic destruction of independent civil society. But nobody denies that. Despite what Google tells me is 64,300,000 articles warning that "now comes the hard part in Libya," this is a straw man. I have heard almost nobody arguing the opposite — certainly not the White House, which consistently has warned that "We’re under no illusions — Libya will travel a long and winding road to full democracy. There will be difficult days ahead."