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In the context of the fourth anniversary of Libya’s February 17 revolution, Distinguished Scholar Alan Kuperman has written an article on the failures of NATO’s intervention in Libya for the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs. Kuperman argues that this intervention did not lead to a successful democratic transition. Instead, it transformed the country into a failed state and a safe haven for radical militias with ties to al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The Libyan government is now split between two factions that control limited areas of the country’s territory, and the human rights situation has deteriorated to levels not experienced even during the Qaddafi regime.

The effects of the intervention, says Kuperman, have also been felt outside Libyan borders. Nuclear nonproliferation objectives were hindered with the overthrow of Qaddafi—who had voluntarily surrendered his arsenals—and nuclear states are now less likely to be persuaded to stop expanding their nuclear programs. Perhaps expecting to attract the international attention that Libyan rebels had received, Syrian revolutionaries have also increased their levels of violence. Radical Islamists in North Africa and the Middle East became even more dangerous thanks to the leakage of sensitive weapons from Libya’s arsenal.

Although Obama acknowledges regrets about Libya, writes Kuperman, “he has drawn the wrong lesson.” For Kuperman, the mistake was not so much in post-intervention efforts, but instead in the decision to intervene in the first place. The lesson for the international community should be to avoid military interventions on humanitarian grounds to help militants in cases in which the state is narrowly targeting rebels. These rebels have incentives to deceive international audiences both on the magnitude and scope of the state’s repression, as well as on the amount of popular support these groups actually hold. Intervening may result in extending the conflict and increasing the amount of casualties, as has happened in Libya. The full article can be accessed here.

In the May/June 2015 issue of Foreign Affairs, Kuperman responds to comments and criticisms of his piece from Derek Chollet, Counselor and Senior Adviser at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and Ben Fishman, Consulting Senior Fellow for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. The exchange can be read here.

Kuperman appeared on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, February 22 to discuss his research further:

Alan Kuperman was recently interviewed on this issue for the BBC’s “Newsday” (the full interview can be accessed here), the New Republic quoted his most recent article (both here and here), as did Mint Press Newsand the French-language newspaper in Montreal, La Presse, published a feature on his research. He has published extensively on Libya’s civil war elsewhere, including this article in International Security and this policy brief. His research has also led to Congressional testimonies, public lectures, and other media appearances.