Case Study:

Humanitarian Intervention in Libya

In 2011 the UN Security Council invoked the "responsibility to protect" doctrine and adopted Resolution 1973, endorsing a no-fly zone over Libya and authorizing member states to "take all necessary measures" to protect civilians under attack from Muammar al-Qaddafi’s government. Western-led air strikes ultimately ousted Qaddafi from power and prompted criticism from Security Council members like Russia that the R2P doctrine was cover for a regime change strategy. Experts say such sentiments, combined with concern about the way Libya’s upheaval spilled over into the region, have given pause to humanitarian interventions backed by regional or global bodies. (Source: CFR)

 

  • What were some of the arguments in favor of an intervention?

  • What were some of the arguments against an intervention?

  • What were the consequences?

We will explore these questions through some videos, a reading and DBQ.

 

1. What do you know about Libya?

2. Can you find it on a map?

3. What do you know about the 2011 intervention?

4. What questions do you have after watching the video?

Background Information on the Humanitarian Intervention in Libya in 2011

Source 1: Excerpt from CFR, The Dilemma of Humanitarian Intervention

 

In 2011 the UN Security Council invoked the "responsibility to protect" doctrine and adopted Resolution 1973, endorsing a no-fly zone over Libya and authorizing member states to "take all necessary measures" to protect civilians under attack from Muammar al-Qaddafi’s government. Western-led air strikes ultimately ousted Qaddafi from power and prompted criticism from Security Council members like Russia that the R2P doctrine was cover for a regime change strategy. 

Source 2: Excerpt from the New York Times Learning Network

Libya, an oil-rich nation in North Africa, has been under the firm, if sometimes erratic, control of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi since he seized power in 1969. But in February 2011, the unrest sweeping through much of the Arab world erupted in several Libyan cities. Though it began with a relatively organized core of antigovernment opponents in Benghazi, its spread to the capital of Tripoli was swift and spontaneous. Colonel Qaddafi lashed out with a level of violence unseen in either of the other uprisings, but an inchoate opposition cobbled together the semblance of a transitional government, fielded a makeshift rebel army and portrayed itself to the West and Libyans as an alternative to Colonel Qaddafi’s four decades of freakish rule.

Momentum shifted quickly, however, and the rebels faced the possibility of being outgunned and outnumbered in what increasingly looked like a mismatched civil war. As Colonel Qaddafi’s troops advanced to within 100 miles of Benghazi, the rebel stronghold in the west, the United Nations Security Council voted to authorize military action, a risky foreign intervention aimed at averting a bloody rout of the rebels by loyalist forces. On March 19, American and European forces began a broad campaign of strikes against Colonel Qaddafi and his government, unleashing warplanes and missiles in a military intervention on a scale not seen in the Arab world since the Iraq war.

 

Source 3: Excerpt from Libya: News about Libya , including commentary and archival articles published in The New York Times

The State of Libya, situated along the Mediterranean Sea on Africa’s northern coast, shares borders with Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Algeria and Tunisia. Inhabited by its native Berber population since the Bronze Age, the region has variously been ruled by Persians, Egyptians and the Roman and Ottoman Empires. Its capital city of Tripoli is home to more than one million of the nation’s roughly six million residents.

Libya emerged as an independent kingdom in 1951 after serving as a key battleground in World War II. Its relatively poor economy was given a major boost in 1958 with the discovery of petroleum. To this day, oil accounts for some 80 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and Libya continues to boast the largest proven reserves in Africa.

In 1969 a group of officers led by 27-year-old Col Muammar el-Qaddafi ousted King Idris I in a coup. Qaddafi would remain Libya’s de facto absolute ruler for more than 40 years, establishing a policy of Arab nationalism and a unique, if erratic, admixture of socialist policies and anti-Communist principles.

Qaddafi was pushed from power by a popular revolt in 2011 amid Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East. He was killed the same year following a six-month struggle between loyalists and rebel militias that eventually gained significant military support from NATO.

The country has since struggled to attain stability, with a weak and divided central government failing to curtail the power of rival armed militias. This instability was punctuated in September 2012, when Islamist militants executed a deadly surprise attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, claiming the life of US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/topic/destination/libya

 

Democracy Now!: The Libya Gamble: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Push for War & the Making of a Failed State

 

On Humanitarian Intervention in Libya