This Military Times article highlights the attempt by President Obama to shift blame onto NATO and other allies for Libya’s failed state following the U.S. and coalition liberation of the country in 2011. Obama claims that poor planning for the aftermath of Libya was his worst mistake during his presidency. Yet the U.S. and other allies within the United Nations are about to make the same mistake in Syria, as preparations are being made for the replacement of the al-Assad regime.

It is a strikingly similar situation, as the removal of Bashar al-Assad may create a power vacuum far greater than Libya, as there are more stakeholders, both foreign and domestic, involved in Syria. A newly formed constitution isn’t enough to avoid repeating this mistake. Prolific political advisors and support from the Department of State will be needed to reinforce the newly formed government.

As of now, the U.S. has not publicly announced any commitment to an extended military presence in Syria during the transition period. Any offer for a U.S. military presence will serve two purposes: It will help maintain security and it will counter Russian and other foreign influence.

Parallel planning for social services from the U.S., U.N., and NGOs will be needed to assist in efforts to make Syria livable again. Water, food, medical care, engineers, education, and work programs will be needed for the population to begin rebuilding their lives. Besides providing physical security, this will be one of the most influential ways the U.S. and U.N. can help the new government succeed. As these basic needs are fulfilled, more Syrian refugees may return home from the surrounding countries, easing the economic and political strains placed on Syrian neighbors and Europe.

Is there time for the U.S. and U.N. to prevent the same mistake from being made in Syria? Syria is so close to a new transitional government, if extensive parallel planning is not already being considered, there may not be adequate opportunity to develop these much-needed social services.

Image courtesy of Reuters