The Ugly Aftermath of America's Intervention in Libya

The other war in the Arab world.


Remember when NATO's intervention in Libya was supposed to be an example of a war that worked? Three years after the U.S. helped overthrow the regime of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, The New York Times reports, the

Welcome to Libya.
United Nations

country is coming undone. Relentless factional fighting in Tripoli and in the eastern city of Benghazi has left dozens of people dead. Well-known political activists have been killed, diplomats have been kidnapped, and ordinary citizens fear bandits on the roads.

Water and electricity shutdowns have become more frequent than at any time since the chaos after Colonel Qaddafi's fall, and fuel has disappeared from Tripoli's gas stations. On Sunday, several Western nations advised their citizens to leave immediately. Gunmen attacked a convoy of British diplomats….

This time, the fighting in Tripoli seems at least partly fueled by the campaign of a general named Khalifa Hifter, who vowed in May to rid the country of Islamist militias. He and his self-proclaimed national army have focused their fight in Benghazi, where daily battles with the militias have settled into a deadly stalemate.

Mr. Hifter has won support from Libyans who fear the growing assertiveness of extremists, especially in eastern Libya. But his campaign has also stirred new divisions, and violence, across the country. Militias from the coastal city of Misurata that oppose Mr. Hifter have been clashing for weeks around the Tripoli airport with fighters from the mountain city of Zintan, who support him.

Any glimmers of a potential peace? Well, the forces battling for control of Tripoli's airport agreed to a cease-fire last night—but only to give firefighters a chance to try to put out a gigantic fire that a missile set off at an fuel depot. After 24 hours, the truce is scheduled to expire.

The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf comments: "At the very most charitable, the common interventionist claim that Libya vindicated them in their dispute with non-interventionists was wildly premature." At the very most charitable, yes.