Our Intervention in Libya Has Unintended Consequences in Mali and Nigeria


The recent events in Libya have prompted renewed discussions about our foreign policy. Although validity of the narrative of this week's events is far from obvious the fact remains that a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were murdered in a county that we had a part in liberating. While it is not yet clear what motivated those who killed Ambassador Stevens and three other consulate employees the attacks on diplomatic missions this week provide an ideal opportunity to reflect on the unintended consequences of our foreign policy.

In Libya the overthrow of Gaddafi has displaced mercenary fighters and militants outside of Libya where they have been inflicting misery on local populations for months.  

Throughout the Libyan conflict Gaddafi used mercenaries from neighboring countries such as Chad and Mali. These mercenaries included Tuaregs, nomads who live across numerous countries in northwest Africa. After Gaddafi's defeat many of these Tuareg mercenaries started moving into northern Mali. From a News24 report at the time:

The repatriation of hundreds of fighters is "a serious worry", UN special envoy to west Africa Said Djinnit told reporters on Friday. The men arrived "in confusion, with big re-entry problems, which has increased the insecurity in the north of Mali".

He added: "Heavy weapons, missiles, convoys of hundreds of vehicles, including technicals [armed 4x4s] circulating freely … are commonplace. There are potential buyers for these weapons: al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb [and] drug rings."

As Ed noted back in July, Al Qaeda elements within these mercenary groups did indeed begin to wreck havoc in northern Mali. These mercenaries and their supporters have been ensuring that Shariah has been harshly implemented in northern Mali. Militias have begun to emerge in response to the Malian government's inability to defend the country from this sort of invasion and oppression.

It is not only in Mali that the unintended consequences of our intervention in Libya are being seen. In Nigeria a former president and government officials have said that the fall of Gaddafi helped arm Boko Haram, a particularly nasty jihadist group. Minister of the Interior Abba Moro made the following comments in July:

Government believes that part of the problems that we have today, the challenges of internal security stemmed from the activities in Libya.

It is indeed an open secret that even though, we did not share common border with Libya, arms and weapons have found their ways into Nigeria from that North African country.

The recent misery inflicted on Mali and Nigeria should motivate policy makers to be more wary of foreign intervention. However, given recent history and the two men running on the Democratic and Republic tickets, I don't have many reasons to be optimistic.

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  1. “The US, of course, will have to take over the whole operation when it becomes patently clear that neither the British nor the French have the capabilities needed. That, therefore, means the whole mess will be ours: the UN will back off; the Arab League will be nowhere to be seen; and the EU will be snickering behind our backs with not a word of thanks for having secured their oil supplies. And the Libyans? All of them, pro- and anti-Qaddafi, will be angry with us and our intervention.

    There is no gain for the U.S. to get involved, and no valid reason to get involved, so, of course, we will get involved.”…..ttack.html

  2. So you guys would feel better if those crazy Islamists were inflicting misery on Libya?

    I dislike Obama as much as anyone. And I think our intervention in Libya was idiotic and half assed. But to lay blame for this on Obama is a bit much. You know who is responsible for the people making Mali and Nigeria miserable? The people making Mali and Nigeria miserable.

    1. “The reason we see deranged or at least nasty and unpleasant dictators in the Arab world is that Arab societies are deranged, nasty and unpleasant–thanks largely to the brand of Islam practiced in those societies which is particularly deranged, nasty, and unpleasant.

      From the above link.

    2. There’s plenty of blame to go around, John. This is a foreseeable, if unintended, consequence of BO’s Libya adventure, and thus he bears some responsibility for it.

    3. I kind of agree. “Bad people do other bad things because we displaced them from a place where they were doing bad things”

      This comes down to the butterly-flaps-its-wings theory of American intervention.

      No, we shouldn’t be intervening, but we know we still get blamed when we don’t.

      1. Except that they’re more dangerous now because of our intervention. Gaddafi armed them.

        1. This is true. Looks like our only option is to invade Mali and Nigeria to disarm them.

    4. The people making Mali and Nigeria miserable.

      Can we blame the deaths of Americans at the embassy on Obama’s intervention?

      Also why the fuck are we “helping” Libya rather then Mali and Nigeria?

      Furthermore we gave material support to those monsters and now they are killing people on Mali and Nigeria. How are we not at least partially to blame?

      1. How are we not at least partially to blame?

        We are responsible for the disruption of arms in the area. For sure.

        We should cease all non-diplomatic military operations in the middle east now.

  3. However, given recent history and the two men running on the Democratic and Republic tickets

    Two men? I thought there was just one.


    I’m here all ze veek.

  4. what was it someone here likes to say about foreseeable consequences? The folly in Obama is this nonsensical belief that all things happen in a vacuum when, in fact, virtually nothing does. His eagerness to appear tough in forcing Qaddafi’s ouster had consequences elsewhere. All his fault? No, but when you stick your arm in a hornet’s nest, the outcome is not going to be good.

    1. The so-called Iron Law conflates foresight with intent. It may be pithy and stuff but it’s still faulty.

      You can assign blame for foreseeable consequences without blurring the distinction between intent and foresight.

      1. Yes, there are intentional torts and there is negligence, gross and otherwise.

        Distinction noted.

      2. It needs to be said more often:

        The RC dens iron law is generally in conflict with the the fundamental nature of the universe which says “never assume conspiracy when incompetence can explain.”

        Being foreseeable does not mean it was foreseen. It should be assumed incompetence explains the vast majority of unforeseen consequences.

        The universal incompetence theorem is also in line with Hayekian understanding of the nature of planning.

        1. “never assume conspiracy when incompetence can explain.”

          Is this why I see so much conspiracy when I watch the Obama administration?

        2. Even if consequences are perfectly foreseen, with their full significance understood, etc, that still does not make them intended. We’ve all taken actions that had negative consequences, because we believed the positive consequences that we intended outweighed the negative ones we foresaw.

    2. We ain’t got much of a choice though… much of the world is a hornet’s nest.

      It’s impossible not to have to interact with it at some point.

      1. There’s a difference between interaction and intervention.

        1. Yeah, it sucks where oil comes from mostly.

          Sucks we have to take note of genocide and such too.

          Oh… if we could just be totally ignorant of the world and its peoples. Earth would be heaven, I think.

          1. What genocide are you talking about?

          2. And who is this “we”

          3. Good of you, Lyle, to illustrate the Black or White fallacy.

            Markets work very well for seeing to it that oil goes to those willing to pay for it. Sucks that we have to pay for counterproductive military intervention as well.

      2. interaction is not the same as actively encouraging or participating in the overthrow of folks we no longer find convenient. Particularly when the outcome is likely to be an even worse person or group.

  5. Dictators are good for something after all, I guess. Keeping religious zealots imprisoned and powerless.

    Yay! I love our world.

  6. Our intervention in Libya had unintended consequences in Libya (at least I hope they were unintended…Obama must have been surrounded by yes-men to not know about the Muslim Brotherhood and their ilk), I wouldn’t doubt it extended to bordering countries.

    1. Obama knew. To think otherwise presumes a level of incompetence that is staggering.

      1. To think otherwise presumes a level of incompetence that is staggering.

        He shut down every off shore oil rig working in US waters who did not spill yet allowed BP which did spill the right to recover oil.

        He punished the virtuous and rewarded the wicked.

        To not assume the highest level of incompetence for Obama is staggering.

      2. Either he’s malicious or incompetent. Either way he needs to be removed from office and jailed along with every other ex-president.

        1. Even the tall, ugly, bearded one?

          1. Especially him

          2. The cripple too

            1. The Millionaire
              and his Wife

              1. *sung to to the tune of the “Gilligan’s Island” theme.*

        2. Why wait until they’ve committed the crime of being president. I continue to propose my politician pre-crime idea:

          Hold an election, anyone who shows up to run is immediately jailed.

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