28 March 2014

Strauss Center Distinguished Scholar Dr. Alan Kuperman participated in the discussion "Did the Military Intervention in Libya Succeed?" at the Cato Institute. This event commemorated the third anniversary of the launching of the air assault in Libya by the United States and allied countries. Although he concedes that perhaps it is yet too soon to make a definitive assessment, Dr. Kuperman considers that, as of now, the NATO intervention was an abysmal failure.

Dr. Kuperman began by arguing that the success of a war should not be measured by military achievements, but by political ones (for, as Clausewitz wrote, war is "the continuation of politics by other means"). He then explained how the political objectives traced by President Obama in his speech at the National Defense University could serve as a guide by which to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention. By comparing the outcome on these metrics with how the situation in Libya would have developed without intervention (following pre-existing trends), Dr. Kuperman suggested it is possible to assess the net impact of NATO's actions.

Kuperman argues that his evidence demonstrates that not only were President Obama's political goals not achieved, but the development of the conflict in Libya turned out to be much more devastating than if there had been no intervention at all. What would have been a six-week civil war was extended by another seven months; as a result, the killing of civilians was not truncated but magnified significantly; no legitimate and responsive government has yet been established; secessionism and insecurity have reduced oil production by 85%, and radical Islam has flourished; and the intervention not only failed to promote the Arab Spring in countries like Egypt but destabilized a previously stable democracy in neighboring Mali and fostered weapons proliferation throughout north Africa and the Middle East.

Dr. Kuperman's presentation was based on his recent article: "A Model Humanitarian Intervention? Reassessing NATO's Libya Campaign," International Security 38, 1 (Summer 2013): 105-136.

A video of his remarks in full can be found below: