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The Baleful Consequences of the Libyan War

Six years ago, the U.S. and its allies attacked the Libyan government in the name of protecting civilians and the “responsibility to protect.” Today, this is what is happening in Libya:

West African migrants are being bought and sold openly in modern-day slave markets in Libya, survivors have told a UN agency helping them return home.

Trafficked people passing through Libya have previously reported violence, extortion and slave labour. But the new testimony from the International Organization for Migration suggests that the trade in human beings has become so normalised that people are being traded in public.

The Libyan war has had many baleful consequences for the country and the surrounding region. Libya itself has been governed mostly by militias ever since the collapse of the old government. Rival governments compete for recognition, while jihadists have become much stronger. Regime weapons stocks flooded into other countries and contributed to their local conflicts. Neighboring Mali was destabilized by the influx of weapons looted from regime arsenals and the return of Tuareg fighters that had been mercenaries for the regime, and the crisis prompted a military coup against Mali’s elected government. Refugees have tried crossing over to Europe in the years since the intervention, and many have died on the way. The so-called “model” intervention made things worse precisely because it “succeeded” in toppling the regime, despite the fact that regime change was supposedly not the goal of the intervention at the beginning.

The intervention in Libya was remarkable for having been justified in the most high-flown humanitarian terms while producing the most appalling results for the people of Libya and surrounding countries. Judged according to its own standards, the “humanitarian” intervention in 2011 was a failure, and its harmful effects are still being felt to this day.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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