What Libya tells us

Life after Gadhafi: celebrations in Tripoli at the end of the regime. Photo: NATO

In a new blog post over at RAND, Christopher S. Chivvis gives readers a taste of an article on Libya that he’s written for the IISS journal Survival: Global Politics and Strategy. Although the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in September raised fresh doubts about NATO’s military intervention in Libya, Chivvis argues that nothing has changed the fact that, in toppling Muammar Gadhafi, last year’s intervention opened the door to a better future for the country. ‘Without it hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent civilians would have died and the pro-democracy protest movements sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa would probably have been slowed,’ he writes. ‘From this perspective it remains a genuine, even if moderate, success for NATO.’

Could that success be repeated? After chronicling the particular circumstances surrounding the Libya campaign, he concludes that the lessons are limited. ‘Libya does not tell us much about how useful the lower-cost, lighter footprint adopted there can be under more challenging conditions, or when the objective is broader and more transformational, as was the case at the outset in Iraq and Afghanistan.

‘But’, he stresses, ‘it does serve, at a minimum, as a reminder that military power has a role to play in toppling tyrants and saving people from humanitarian disasters.’

Download the full Survival article, ‘Libya and the Future of Liberal Intervention’.


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