Seven months after NATO's misguided war in Libya began, Moammar Gadhafi has been killed. While there has not been as much celebration of this in the West as there might have been before the Iraq war, the conventional wisdom seems to be that this outcome has proved the intervention to be right because it "worked." However, far from vindicating the decision to attack Libya, Gadhafi's bloody end represents much of what was wrong with the intervention from the start.
Instead of protecting the population of Libya — which is what the U.N. authorized — the West's intervention allowed the conflict to continue and consume perhaps as many as 30,000 Libyan lives, including many thousands of civilians, in addition to tens of thousands wounded and hundreds of thousands displaced. Rather than the "limited" war presented by the intervention's defenders, it immediately expanded into a policy of regime change. The official goal of protecting civilians was subordinated very early on to the real purpose of the war — namely, the destruction of the existing government and the elimination of its leaders.
Contrary to the hope that Libya would provide a deterrent to regime violence elsewhere, the political fallout from the war has stalled any international response to Syria's crackdown. By exceeding the U.N. mandate they received in March, the U.S. and its allies have poisoned emerging democratic powers such as India and Brazil against taking any action in other countries. Libya has confirmed every skeptic's worst fears that in practice, the "responsibility to protect" is little more than a pretext for toppling vulnerable governments.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Libya Has Consequences
Paleo-conservative Daniel Larison makes the case against the Libyan intervention: