The Death of Gaddafi and Libya Three Years Later

20 October 2014 marked the third anniversary of the death of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and essentially the end of the Libyan Civil War. Today Libya is a failing state with two governments competing for power while violence is everywhere. Once one of the richest states in Africa, Libya is now in economic chaos while a renewed civil war rages on. Gaddafi was a brutal tyrant and the Libyan people had every right to revolt against him though their eventual victory was expedited by military intervention from the U.S. and other states operating under UN mandate. The reality is the U.S. and others exceeded what the UN mandate allowed for without having any real plan for Libya after the collapse of Gaddafi. Our intervention in Libya helped to remove a brutal tyrant only to be replaced by competing governments overseeing a rapidly failing state that can’t even provide security for its people. Is Libya better off today?

In early 2011, demonstrations in Libya during the Arab Spring quickly escalated into an all-out civil war and shortly after the UN authorized for the creation of a no-fly zone among other things. A large coalition of countries intervened militarily on behalf of UNSC Resolution 1973. Approved in March 2011, UNSCR 1973 established a no-fly zone in Libyan and called on states to protect Libyan civilians; the French were the first to engage Libya militarily. Within several days the military intervention in Libya came under the command of NATO. Ultimately air and missile strikes against the forces of Gaddafi weren't just directed at his aviation assets or at forces engaging civilians. Essentially the countries that intervened became the de-facto air force of the Libyan rebels and were attacking targets that were out of the no-fly zone and that were militarily engaged against rebel forces; this was not called for by UNSCR 1973. Had it not been for the aerial campaign against military units under Gaddafi, would the rebels have achieved victory by the end of October 2011? I don't believe so.

In 1969, then Colonel Gaddafi took power through a coup d'etat that deposed King Idris. For over 40 years he would rule Libya advancing his own unique ideology. He was a sponsor of state terrorism against the west, invaded neighbor countries, developed WMD, and was a brutal tyrant. President Reagan coined him the "mad dog of the Middle East" when Libya was the state sponsor of several terrorist acts in the 1980s, including the Lockerbie bombing of Pan AM Flight 103. While the west had a negative view of him, many in the global south had a different view. He brought many advances to Libya in the fields of education, health services, housing, and infrastructure and is seen by many for his role in furthering pan-African unity and for helping to further the development of the AU. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Gaddafi renounced WMDs and became a partner with the west in the fight against terrorism; Gaddafi was no friend by that time with radical Islamic terrorists.

Regardless the world couldn't stomach the Libyan civil war and many had grown tired of Gaddafi and under the idea of responsibility to protect the innocent, military intervention was called for. Military intervention in a foreign civil war can be debated all day with valid points on all sides. I for one believe humanitarian intervention is a must in most cases. At the time though, I felt we were exceeding the UN mandate and we were and in so much I opposed our intervention in the form that it came for one simple reason, what is the end game? Simply, where does this end once we've overthrown Gaddafi? Since the downfall of his regime in October 2011, Libya has been plagued by lawlessness, a lack of effective government rule and with it provisions for education and health services among other things, Libya has seen the rise of radical Islamic groups of the type which murdered U.S. Ambassador Stephens and three other Americans (it must be said Gaddafi in the 2000s actively opposed radical Islam), and a virtual collapse of its economy. Thousands have been killed in violence since Gaddafi's death in 2011 and Libya is now in the midst of another civil war.

We helped to expedite the downfall of a brutal dictator only for Libya to today become a lawless country. We had no real plan for assisting the Libyan people post-Gaddafi and it shows today. We congratulated ourselves on a job well done as we defeated a tyrant at minimal cost and without loss of U.S. life. At the same time in acting in the name of protecting the innocent, we offered little assistance post-conflict that would ensure the security of those same innocent; we wiped our hands of Libya. Is Libya better off without Gaddafi, well that can be debated as Libyans have just as much to fear for their own security when they go to sleep tonight as they did when Gaddafi was in power. The world had a responsibility to protect the innocent but not a responsibility to play a major role in deciding the outcome of an internal conflict. The case of Libya is one which should always be juxtaposed against future situations when calls for military intervention for humanitarian purposes arise. There is no such thing as a quick victory and sometimes the outcomes are just as bad as the situations that lead us to intervene initially.

Posted by SPBrooker at November 7, 2014 1:46 PM
Comment #385127

SPB, a Gaddafi apologist or defender of innocents? Not sure which you come across as in this posting.

The Middle East is and has been a real hornet’s nest of political and tyrannical mix. At least now it would appear that they (the countries of the Middle East) are now having to deal with their internal problems related mostly to religious sects trying to wield power over one another. That is good for us but not the world as whole. They are much to busy trying to stop their own terrorists, jihad members and dictators to be interested in the United States of America. Sure they still see us as the great Satan but compared to their religious adversaries in their own country, we take a back seat to their fury and fervor.

This is good for us in a sense but as I said not for the world as a whole. We cannot be the world police force, no matter how much we want to be, we just can’t. We can try to help but that help sometimes is not received as help. Besides we have enough of our own versions of religious nuttiness to deal with here and I only see that becoming more intense as different religions infiltrate our culture (but that’s a good thing, i.e. different religions). Religion could be the bane of man’s existence if it didn’t provide some of it’s finest moments. It’s their worst moments that are horrifying and frightening.

Posted by: Speak4all at November 7, 2014 2:59 PM
Comment #385130

Are they better off now that a dictator is gone and they are free?

That is up to them.

Posted by: phx8 at November 7, 2014 3:41 PM
Comment #385157

In your third paragraph you list Gaddafi’s errors and acomplishments. After Renaldus Magnus retaliated against Gaddafi for the pub bombing in Germany, I believed Gaddafi was put in his place. Since then there was no mention of him until he publicly surrendered his WMD ambitions while GWBush was president. He went back into oblivion, but then returned when a civil war began in his country. NATO then became the air force for the rebels, just as you say.

I never understood why NATO jumped into that mess. They didn’t go into Egypt when it was in turmoil. Why did they feel they needed to interfere in Lybia? And then they leave it in a mess, just like they said Bush did in Iraq!

Makes you want to think it’s not about partisan politics, is it? Makes me think it’s incompetence. It’s also unconstitutional and defies the founder’s intent.

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.
Posted by: George Washington at September 19, 1796, 2:59 PM

Thomas Jefferson said that one of the “essential principles of our government” is that of “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”

It seems to me those guys thought our federal government should be a facilitator between people in other countries and our own citizens, not a militarized occupier and all-round problem solver across the globe.

If we didn’t have a military we could buy and sell the rest of the world every day.

It was stupid to close off Cuba to U.S. trade. It eliminated any influence the everyday citizen could have had while visiting, investing in, and living in Cuba. As we now can deduce, the current policy didn’t work.

If we had just held firm with the principles Thomas Jefferson and George Washington instilled into the fabric of our nation Cuba would be an honorable state equal to the others in this union.

Posted by: Weary Willie at November 8, 2014 1:25 AM
Comment #385329
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