THE DEATH of Moammar Gaddafi, which prompted jubilation in Tripoli and relief in Western capitals on Thursday, must be seen as the beginning and not the end of Libya’s transformation. The elimination of the dictator reduces the chance of a prolonged insurgency against Libya’s new authorities, who have pledged to create a liberal democracy and hold elections in eight months. But what remains is a shattered country piled high with dangerous weapons, lacking legitimate institutions or civil society, and vulnerable to tribal, regional, sectarian and even racial rivalries.
The good news is that, in the time it took to depose Mr. Gaddafi, the Libyan opposition created a Transitional National Council recognized by 80 governments and prepared an ambitious but reasonable transition plan. Its leaders have pledged to form a new administration after Mr. Gaddafi’s downfall and not to serve in the future government. Civil society groups, free media and political parties have begun to form in the eastern half of the country, which has been free since last winter. And the new government should soon be able to draw on tens of billions of dollars in reserves held by foreign banks.