Both messy, but differently so.
With Iraq, I didn’t think the foreign invasion was a good idea. The Iraqis would have got rid of Hussein when they were ready. Yes, that might have been quite a while and lots of suffering later, but it would’ve also meant that the mindset inside Iraq would’ve been ready for the changes it would bring. And then, Hussein was a bastard, but he was “their bastard” – having foreigners sort out your mess is not good for self esteem, particularly when it’s primarily pushy belligerent Americans leading the charge. For some additional context, see this article on the role of Christian religion in the US military: http://www.care2.com/causes/yes-there-are-athiests-in-the-military.html
So now to Libya. In this instance, US, Europe and others decided to not get in on the ground. Air and other forms of support were provided, but the visible main work was done by the locals. And they got rid of Ghadaffi. There are some very nasty aspects to how it all happened, and some of it is still ongoing, but we know how the events in Iraq with the Americans was not really any prettier. The Libyans, starting in Benghazi, were ready for change, and they created it. That makes the future much easier to deal with, because it’ll flow on naturally from the present events.
With these things in mind, I predict that Libya will be in a much better state than Iraq in a much shorter time. And I’m not talking about economic $ as a measure, nor do I believe that holding elections equates a democracy. No, what we’ll see is the Libyan people feeling empowered and making a new life in their local area, building things the way they want to. It’s not an instant thing, it’ll really take decades to (re)build, but I reckon the results will be positive. All the best to them!
You may wonder what I think of regimes going into neighboring countries. I think that’s quite a different situation. But we also have to realise that many country borders are artificial, in many cases carving traditional areas in half, and also bundling traditionally separate areas together. This is particularly the case in Africa and also in the Middle East. Not surprisingly, these area precisely the areas where we see the most trouble. Historic mistakes come back. I hope we learn from it, otherwise it’ll be repeated again later (Afghanistan is already showing that, with 150 years of different foreign invasions and interference, each time yielding approximately the same result: very little to nothing).