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The Famous Libyan Victory

Conflict in Libya continues to intensify three years after the U.S.-led war destroyed the country’s government:

Captured on video by the proud attackers just one month ago, Mr. Badi’s assault on Libya’s main international airport has now drawn the country’s fractious militias, tribes and towns into a single national conflagration that threatens to become a prolonged civil war. Both sides see the fight as part of a larger regional struggle, fraught with the risks of a return to repressive authoritarianism or a slide toward Islamist extremism. Three years after the NATO-backed ouster of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the violence threatens to turn Libya into a pocket of chaos destabilizing North Africa for years to come.

That’s a charitable way of putting it. The Libyan war has been directly contributing to instability and violence in North and West Africa for years now, which is something that supporters of the intervention insisted wouldn’t happen and then denied it when it started to happen. I have written several timesonthe war’sdestabilizingeffectsonMali, so I won’t repeat all that again. Suffice it to say that the Libyan war had already done more harm than good long before now.

While it is possible that Libya would still be suffering from internal conflicts in the absence of outside intervention in 2011, it is far more likely that aiding in the destruction of the old regime condemned Libya and its neighbors to the destabilizing and destructive effects of armed conflict for an even longer period of time. It was not an accident that Libya’s immediate neighbors were among the least supportive of the U.S.-led war, since they were always going to be the ones to experience the war’s harmful effects. Unfortunately for the civilian population in Libya, they will be living with the dangerous consequences of that “humanitarian” intervention for years and perhaps even decades to come. Considering that the war was justified entirely in the name of protecting civilians from violence, it has to be judged one of the most conspicuous failures and blunders of U.S. policy in the last decade. The desire to “help” Libyans with military action has directly contributed to the wrecking of their country. The lesson from all this that the U.S. and its allies shouldn’t be forcibly overthrowing foreign governments is an obvious one, and one that I am confident that all relevant policymakers in Washington will be sure to ignore.

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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