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Published: Thursday, 3/15/2012

Unforeseen outcome

U.S. and NATO military support of Libyan rebels who ousted Moammar Gadhafi has had some undesirable consequences.

Four months after Gadhafi was captured and killed, no responsible regime has emerged to exercise authority and maintain law and order. Libya's lack of effective government has had regional effects.

Arms flow from Libya into Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as into Tunisia, which is attempting to establish its own post-Arab Spring order. Tunisia has sought foreign military assistance to help it keep heavily armed, disorderly Libyan militia forces out of its territory.

The arms were part of the former Libyan government's large arsenal. Ex-Gadhafi military and rebels who are in de facto control of parts of Libya are selling the arms for cash, not for ideological or political reasons. Disgruntled populations in Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Niger, and Sudan, as well as Tunisia, would be glad to have access to cheap arms.

Absence of government also has opened Libya's borders to a flood of economic immigrants from countries to the south looking for passage to Europe, where they hope to find jobs. The immigrants who are caught are shaken down for money by Libyan officials and held for an undetermined amount of time in appalling conditions.

President Obama should have known the potential consequences of regime change when he decided to support the Libyan rebels. Now, whatever government is eventually put into place there will have two more problems to confront -- runaway arms and uncontrolled immigration.

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