Society & Culture

Lessons From Libya: How Not to Ruin Syria

In the aftermath of the U.S.-led air and missile strikes on Syria for the April incident in which Bashar al-Assad’s government allegedly used chemical weapons against innocent civilians, calls are growing for the Trump administration to deepen U.S. military involvement for the explicit purpose of ousting Assad.  Those pundits and politicians who advocate a regime-change war should pause and reflect on the results of Washington’s last crusade to overthrow a repressive secular dictator.  In 2011, the United States and several NATO allies conducted a ferocious air campaign against the forces of Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi.  Although the official justification for that mission was to prevent Qaddafi from slaughtering innocent civilians, the Western intervention helped rebel forces achieve victory.  In reality, regime change was the West’s primary motive all along.

Despite the expectations of U.S. and European officials that post-Qaddafi Libya would develop into a stable, democratic country, the results have been very different.  Libya quickly descended into a violent, multisided struggle among lawless militias, most of which are strongly Islamist.  The extent of the chaos is reminiscent of the tragic situation in Somalia since the beginning of the 1990’s.  Nearly a million refugees have tried to flee Libya’s turmoil, with tens of thousands perishing in the attempt. ...

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