Half a decade ago the United States along with NATO embarked on a quest to destroy Libya. On March 17, 2011 at the request of US President Barack Obama, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1973 that allowed the so-called Western coalition to invade Libya. According to Obama’s statement, the purpose of this intervention was a bid to preserve peace and save the so-called pro-democracy demonstrators who allegedly came under assault from the “dictator” Muammar Gaddafi.
Back then, US officials were ecstatic enough for the then US Ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, and the commander in chief of the Allied Forces in Europe, James Stavridis, to write an article for the influential Foreign Affairs joural, stating that the operation in Libya should be remembered as an “exemplary intervention.” While delivering a speech in the Rose Garden right after the brutal murder of Gaddafi, Obama proudly announced that the White House achieved all of its goals while setting not a single foot on the ground.
However, such assessments were premature, since it’s perfectly clear now that the military intervention in Libya proved to be an utter and complete failure, even from the US point of view, says Associate Professor of Public Affairs Alan Kuperman who has been a long time employee of the LBJ School of Public Affairs in Austin. Libya hasn’t become democratic, instead its civil institutions have crumbled, transforming this war torn land into a failed state with a record number of violations of human rights being registered every year. Instead of assisting the United States in combating terrorism, Libya has become a safe heaven for militants that enjoy the support of both the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.
On February 29, 2016 the New York Times has published a detailed analysis of the aggression against Libya, which led to a single conclusion – there can be no doubt that the Libyan intervention was a bitter failure of US foreign policy. Yet, this influential newspaper believes that Obama is not the one to take the blame for this grave mistake, since it was the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who was pushing for a military decision, and now she’s going after the US Presidency. It would note:
As the secretary of state in 2011, Hillary Clinton pressed the Obama administration to intervene militarily in Libya, with consequences that have gone far beyond the fall of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Today the West has virtually no choice but to admit that despite a number of shortcomings, the Gaddafi regime was extremely effective at maintaining the rule of law in Libya and in the region as a whole. In sharp contrast, the Western coalition that was busy arming Libyan rebels and demolishing the positions of the Libyan regular army, has clearly shown its inability to maintain order in this country, thus transforming it into a hotbed for terrorism and radicalism that can potentially jeopardize the stability of the whole region.
Once Russia, in close cooperation with Syrian regular troops, began rolling back the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, the remnants of its once mighty fighting forces began relocating to Libya. The trend has been aggravated further by the intensification of Western airstrikes again terrorists in Iraq. It seems that the Pentagon has finally started to actually bomb terrorists, instead of just declaring that it does so while forcing its pilots to drop bombs in the middle of desert. Against this background French military experts concluded that there are over 10,000 radical fighters stationed in Libya today.
The human rights situation that Gaddafi was heavily criticized for by the West pales in comparison with the actual situation on the ground in Libya today. Militants have already murdered hundreds of civilians in cold blood, while torture has become a day-to-day routine, along with beatings and unlawful arrests of thousands of people. Tens of thousands are living in exile with no hope of returning home safe any time soon. Most of those exiled are dark-skinned Libyans that don’t seem to fit into the twisted mockery of Islam that IS preaches. Human Rights Watch has been stating time after time that the total disregard for human rights in Libya has become so commonplace that we’re bound to speak about crimes against humanity being committed there in general, instead of speaking about each separate case.
Before NATO decided to intervene in Libya the civil war was on its last legs and by that point it “only” claimed the lives of one thousand people. But once Western armed aggression began, Libya suffered the loss of more than ten thousand human lives. In other words, NATO has been the root cause of the drastic increase in human casualties.
Today the government of Libya exercises no control whatsoever over a number of regions within the state. Now these lands are used for weapon trafficking which only makes terrorists stronger while residents of those lands are presented with no other option than to emigrate to Europe. In the absence of a center of power that Libya used to occupy for decades, IS is getting an increasing amount of support in North Africa.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has recently told Der Spiegel that he’s completely convinced that military operations in Iraq and Libya were a mistake, adding that the longer Libya is caught in a free fall, the more savage the flow of refugees will get.
In turn, the US President is admitting that chaos reigns over Libya, but he’s inclined to push the blame for this situation on his European allies. However, he doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to remedy their or his own mistakes. In his recent interview with Atlantic the US President stated (emphasis added):
“When I go back and I ask myself what went wrong,” Obama said, “there’s room for criticism, because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya’s proximity, being invested in the follow-up,” he said. He noted that Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, lost his job the following year. And he said that British Prime Minister David Cameron soon stopped paying attention, becoming “distracted by a range of other things.” Of France, he said, “Sarkozy wanted to trumpet the flights he was taking in the air campaign, despite the fact that we had wiped out all the air defenses and essentially set up the entire infrastructure” for the intervention. This sort of bragging was fine, Obama said, because it allowed the U.S. to “purchase France’s involvement in a way that made it less expensive for us and less risky for us.” In other words, giving France extra credit in exchange for less risk and cost to the United States was a useful trade-off—except that “from the perspective of a lot of the folks in the foreign-policy establishment, well, that was terrible. If we’re going to do something, obviously we’ve got to be up front, and nobody else is sharing in the spotlight.”
According to the British Guardian, at the begging of this year the UK has deployed SAS operatives in Libya. Of course, this was done without any form of approval from the international community and in clear violation of international norms. This strengthens the responsibility of London even further, since one’s inability to establish order in a country you’ve raided in violation of international law, makes your transgression that much worse.
The saddest part of this story is that all European states are paying for the ill-calculated military adventure of Washington, London and Paris in Libya, since the flow of illegal migrants is continuous. As for IS militants, they seem to be content with their new base of operations which was voluntarily or involuntarily prepared for them by their Western masters.
In this connection, one can hardly resist asking the following question: Which Western leaders will take responsible for the ongoing Libyan conflict and will the international community force them to finally face an international tribunal?
Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.