Did the Libya intervention work after all?



The very fact that the Libya intervention and its legacy have been either distorted or misunderstood is itself evidence of a warped foreign policy discourse in the US, where anything short of success — in this case, Libya quickly becoming a stable, relatively democratic country — is viewed as a failure, argues Brookings analyst Shadi Hamid.

To argue that the current conflict in Libya is a result of the intervention, one would basically need to assume that the outbreak of civil war was inevitable, irrespective of anything that happened in the intervening 30 months, he writes:

This makes it all the more important to distinguish between the intervention itself and the international community’s subsequent failure — a failure that nearly all the relevant actors acknowledge — to plan and act for the day after and help Libyans rebuild their shattered country.

Such measures include sending training missions to help the Libyan army restructure itself (only in late 2013 did NATO provide a small team of advisers) or even sending multinational peacekeeping forces; expanding the United Nations Support Mission in Libya’s (UNSMIL) limited advisory role; and pressuring the Libyan government to consider alternatives to a dangerous and destabilizing political isolation law.

While perhaps less sexy, the US and its allies could have also weighed in on institutional design and pushed back against Libya’s adoption, backed by UNSMIL, of one of world’s most counterproductive electoral systems — single non-transferable vote — along with an institutional bias favoring independents. This combination exacerbated tribal and regional divisions while making power sharing even more difficult.

But some analysts warn that ad hoc Western outreach to individual militia groups, many of which have fought one another repeatedly since 2011, could actually intensify factional violence and reduce the odds of national reconciliation, The Washington Post adds.

“I would caution [against] international intervention of this nature, in this form and at this time, without having a coherent plan for these groups to work together,” said Anas El Gomati, director of the Sadeq Institute, a Libyan think tank. “If they are all fighting one another, how are they going to fight ISIS?”

Karim Mezran, a Libya scholar at the Atlantic Council, said that Italian-led talks have not yet produced a coherent plan to help Serraj’s would-be administration confront its militant foes.

“It leads us to ask the question I’ve been asking from the beginning: Who’s going to provide the new government the support it requires on the ground?”

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