More U.S. Intervention in Libya?

The first rule governments should follow is, "Do no harm." The second: Assume that intervention will do far more harm than good.


Rob Chandanais/Flickr

Except for the 2012 deadly attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya has dropped out of American news coverage since President Obama and NATO's so-called humanitarian intervention in 2011. The American public has been led to believe that except for that terrorist outburst, things have been going pretty well in the country formerly ruled by Muammar Gaddafi.

So it might come as a surprise that Obama has sent over 200 marines along with Osprey aircraft to Sicily in case the American embassy in Tripoli has to be evacuated. According to an administration official, the reason for the move is the "deterioration of the security situation" in the capital.

All has not been well in Libya since the U.S. military led NATO forces in an air campaign to overthrow Gaddafi. American officials assured us that "moderates" would succeed the cruel and unpredictable dictator, who had become a U.S. ally during the Iraq war. However, it turns out that the moderate victors were not so moderate; in fact they resembled al-Qaeda. Was the Obama administration, propelled by then secretary of state Hillary Clinton, then UN ambassador Susan Rice, and then National Security Council staffer Samantha Power, being a bit disingenuous because it was desperate to appear to be on the side of the Arab Spring after opposing the Egyptian people's struggle for democracy in favor of the loyal U.S.-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011?

As the Independent's Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn points out, American officials have tended to exaggerate the power of the al-Qaeda organization, but Obama, for political reasons, did precisely the opposite in Libya's case:

They played down any similarity between al-Qa'ida and the Nato-backed rebels fighting to overthrow the Libyan leader.… This was done by describing as dangerous only those jihadis who had a direct operational link to the al-Qa'ida "core" of Osama bin Laden. The falsity of the pretence that the anti-Gaddafi jihadis in Libya were less threatening than those in contact with al-Qa'ida was forcefully, if tragically, exposed when US ambassador Chris Stevens was killed by jihadi fighters in Benghazi in September 2012. These were the same fighters lauded by governments and media for their role in the anti-Gaddafi uprising.

Since then, Libya has been anything but peaceful or moderate. And now Libya, Cockburn writes, "is tipping toward all-out civil war as rival militias take sides for and against an attempted coup led by a renegade general that has pushed the central government towards disintegration."

The renegade general is Khalifa Hifter, an anti-Islamist whose forces "stormed the parliament building in Tripoli at the weekend, after earlier attacking Islamist militia camps in Benghazi." Government leaders have summoned Islamist militias for help. Cockburn says what's happening now is the worst violence since the regime change.

Cockburn notes that Hifter, "who in the 1980s fought for Gaddafi in Mali but defected to the US, where he lived for many years, returned to Libya in 2011 but played only a limited role in the revolt." His militia, Cockburn says, is one of many that operate throughout Libya.

The threat of civil war is not the only result of Western intervention in Libya. The overthrow of Gaddafi is a lesson in the dangers of interfering with other countries. He was a brutal dictator, of course, and the people would have been justified in kicking him out. But outsiders can never know what will follow their intervention. In this case, regime change produced a flow of weapons and jihadi training opportunities that in turn led to violence in Mali and the horrific abductions in Nigeria by Boko Haram. As Brendan O'Neill of Spiked Online writes,

Nothing boosted Boko Haram's fortunes so much as the West's assault on Libya in 2011. It was that vain bombing war, that Western-led dismantling of a regime that cohered Libya and its border regions for 40-plus years, which created new spaces in West Africa in which Boko Haram could train, get hold of weaponry and, in the words of one Nigerian observer, become more "audacious" than ever.

The first rule governments should follow is, "Do no harm." The second rule is: Assume that intervention will do far more harm than good.

This article originally appeared at the Future of Freedom Foundation. 

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  1. Assume that intervention will do far more harm than good.

    You know who else thought U.S. intervention into his affairs would be harmful?

    1. Santa Ana?

      1. its awesome,,, Start working at home with Google. It’s a great work at home opportunity. Just work for few hours. I earn up to $100 a day. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out

    2. Jefferson Davis?

    3. Saddam Hussein.

    4. David Koresh?

      1. Randy Weaver approves this message.

    5. Dominique Strauss-Kahn?

    6. You know who else thought U.S. intervention into his affairs would be harmful?

      Charles Chaplin?

    7. I’m gonna go with:

      Roman Polanski.

  2. Back to the Shores of Trippo Lee again, eh?

    1. “But not to Mississipoli” (Tom Lehrer)

  3. Steve McCroskey: He’ll never bring it down in this soup. Never! Not one chance in a million.

    Rex Kramer: I know. I know. But it’s his ship now, his command; he’s in charge, he’s the boss, the head man, the top dog, the big cheese, the head honcho, number one…

    1. I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

  4. It is a safe bet that the current US interventions in the Ukraine will produce worse results then Libya.

    Cuz you know…Ukraine.

  5. the second rule is: Assume that intervention will do far more harm than good.

    More retarded Dogmatism from Derpman. Because the first Libyan intervention was pointless and ill-advised they ALL must be pointless and ill-advised!

    1. Based upon the US’ experience in the 19-21st centuries, I’d say it’s a pretty good assumption.

      1. Nope. Most US interventions either had positive or neutral outcomes. There are more cases where America should have intervened but didn’t than cases where intervention produced bad outcomes.

        1. For example…

          1. Afghanistan: America should have intervened the shit out of that place back in 1998. Instead we got a pointless bombing campaign.

            Iran: should have invaded in 1980 with tens of thousands of troops. No need to rely on scumbag Sadaam.

            1. So supporting Sadaam (and Iran contra) doesn’t count as intervention, because it’s not direct enough?

            2. Why don’t you and your fellow Woodrow Wilson-fan club members start a fund to carry out your dream of a global democratic superstate lead by America?

              Start a kickstarter. Get people with your ideas to pay for it. The money will buy blackwater operations.

              But don’t force me to pay for it by having the government do it.

              WW1 was such an astounding success.
              Just look at how grateful the Germans were. And the collapse of the Kerensky government in Russia had nothing to do with his support for the war.

              WW2? Another victory for America. An enlarged Soviet Union totally did not cause any problems for the united states. The Vietnamese and Chinese were also appreciative of our removal of the Japanese. Just ask Mao and Ho Chi Minh. Also, if we stayed out and let hitler and stalin destroy each other, than how would we have “stimulated” the economy?

              Vietnam and korea? Totally needed. Not a waste of taxpayer dollars and lives at all.

              The gulf war? You know, Saddam was the next hitler. Bill Kristol told me.

              Serbia? Aiding islamists with ties to al qaeda is a time-honored tradition of the US government.

              It’s pretty odd that Rand cultists adopt the same foreign policy as LBJ, Harry Truman, FDR, George Bush, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson.

              Anybody who uses the puerile insult derp is either a preteen or hipster desperately trying to sound cool.

      2. How DARE you insult the troops! Why do you hate America?

        1. *beats straw argument furiously*

    2. How does that benefit me as an American taxpayer? Don’t you have syrup to extract or a waiter or waitress to not tip or fish to catch out of a shitty riveted boat? Eh?

  6. The “moderates”?

    Yeah – these ARE the moderates. You should see the *crazy* ones!

    1. There are many Libyans fighting against Islamists. I’m liking this Hiftar fellow.

  7. “The threat of civil war is not the only result of Western intervention in Libya:”

    -Problems (surprise!) with Sheldon Richman’s arguments

    I could certainly agree with him that the US should NOT have gotten involved in Libya.

    However; simply agreeing on ‘what’ a country should/shouldn’t do does not mean there is any agreement on “why”.

    I opposed the invasion of Iraq. Mainly because I felt it would *detract from the focus of our needed interventions elsewhere*. Shockingly – other anti-war advocates didn’t like me that much.

    The problem with Richman’s argument is that he is trying to tie this shitty outcome back to US involvement. As though it were a sine qua non of the ‘craptastic condition’ there.

    Which reveals a flaw in Richman’s endless anti-interventionist argumentation = he can’t seem to decide whether to argue Intervention is wrong in *principle*, or because of its *outcomes*. He tends to waffle between both and deliver shitty arguments in either case.

    The fact is that in a plurality of middle-eastern countries, there has been pressure building for civil war between islamist and more secular/nationalist groups for many decades. Did US involvement trigger this in Libya? Did it inflame the nascent outbreak? Has its mismanagement resulted in the status quo? probably.

    That still doesn’t mean shit wouldn’t still be just as bad, or worse, had we stayed uninvolved. in terms of ‘costs to the US’ – ? TBD

    1. Sheldon is a god-damned lying piece of shit. Mali had a Taureg insurgency long before the Libyan insurgency and its state was extremely weak. Libya made it worse but by no means was the main problem.

      Further, Ghaddafi probably funded BH.


  8. Put more simply =

    Is the status quo in Libya the ‘necessary RESULT’ of US action?

    no. we could have done nothing, and the rebellion would still have overthrown the existing regime, and there still would have been an inevitable schism between islamist and nationalist elements who then started shooting each other.

    See: history of ‘revolutions’

    1. Absolutely. Even without ANY outside intervention, Ghaddafi probably would have lost. Taking Benghazi would not have been enough, the rebels still had places to operate from in the Nubl mountains. Fact is, even if America hadn’t intervened, everyone else was. The Qataris and French wanted him gone and that means Q was done.

  9. I laughed five times while reading this article.

  10. As soon as Hifter started his fight to overthrow the Libyan government, reports surfaced in the media that U.S. forces started arriving in to rain the Libyan army – a training that was supposed to take place outside Libya – in Bulgaria!

    Khalifa Hifter lived 5 miles from the CIA since he left Libya in the 1980’s, and he is certainly counts on CIA support to become in Libya what General Sissi became in Egypt. Worse yet for Libyans, reports revealed that Hifter and his men were training and prepared their readiness to take over Libya inside Egypt -just across the east border of Libya.

    The U.S. probably advised Khalifa Hifter to work with General Sissi of Egypt and replicate details of the takeover of Libya exactly as General Sissi too over power in Egypt. Those carbon copy military takeovers in Egypt and now in process in Libya were not coincidental; they are long term objectives of the U.S. foreign policy.

    The Misrata Military Council, the best militia in Libya’s Revolution announced today that it will remain neutral in the current crisis in Libya, but stated that “it didn’t want another dictator,” probably a warning to Hifter that if he plans to become the Sissi of Libya they would not tolerate him. The Misrata Council and most Libyan know that Hifter is the U.S. choice to replace Gaddafi as Libya’s dictator controlled from Washington. My guess is that the U.S. – Hiftar effort to establish a U.S. puppet regime in Libya will fail!
    Nikos Retsos, retired professor, USA

    1. Retired professor speak English good about the foreign policy and clarifies possible CIA meddling and does not imply whatsoever that Best Militia the Misrata Council engage in propaganda suggesting opponents are merely puppets of foreigners as this is a tactic employed often by the Mossad and Jews.

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