Are we ready for what happens when Qaddafi falls?

Humanitarian requirements are also likely to be acute in Tripoli as well as other newly liberated population centers. Even in liberated areas, casualties and humanitarian requirements have not yet been fully assessed. Electricity outages are already reportedly severe in Tripoli, while Misrata has been in need of food shipments. Following Qaddafi’s fall, it will be vital to quickly restore basic services to these neighborhoods. Providing food, water, shelter, and health care for the most vulnerable — including what may amount to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people — will also be key. An angry citizenry does not make for a smooth transition.

Kickstarting Libya’s economy will require getting its energy production and exports back online as quickly as possible. But it is not just a matter of getting the oil and gas flowing: A more transparent and accountable system for spending the resulting revenue, much of which used to disappear into Qaddafi family accounts, will be needed to help forestall quarrels over the proceeds and set the country on a more sustainable path. The post-Qaddafi regime will need to do a full accounting of its assets and try to ensure that some of them are not “privatized” by officials seeking to line their pockets…

The United Nations, which authorized the NATO intervention, has both the funding and the credibility with Libyans to play a leadership role in the transition. From Washington’s perspective — which is no doubt to avoid getting embroiled in more nation building — it is also a relatively economical way to get things done, as the United States usually pays no more than one-third of the U.N. costs.