Stability in a Post-Gaddafi Libya

Originally published


Melodee M. Baines Mediterranean Basin Knowledge Manager

This document examines lessons learned in Libya after the end of NATO’s Operation Unified Protector. Related information is available at Hyperlinks to source material are highlighted in blue and underlined in the text. A list of references for this report is available at the CimicWeb.

Even before the capture and death of Moammar Gaddafi on 20 October 2011 and the official end of the NATO mission Operation Unified Protector on 31 October, scholars and practitioners were discussing ‘lessons learned’ from Western intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Rwanda and Somalia that could apply to post-revolution Libya. As early as August, Gordon Lubold addressed lessons for Libya in his United States Institute for Peace (USIP) article, “What’s Next for the New Libya” and Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution wrote “Lessons of the Libya Intervention”. In September 2011, Thomas Carothers, the vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, discussed lessons learned drawing upon the United States experience in Iraq. Other examples followed immediately after Gaddafi’s death in October. Chatham House released an article titled “Libya’s New Era: Lessons from Iraq”. Even now, experts are discussing the lessons learned from the Libyan context that might be applicable to the unrest in Syria and Yemen.

The Arab Spring uprisings were not “a monolithic phenomenon”, according to Eugene Rogan, Director of the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. While there are some similarities to which a ‘lessons-learned’ approach can be applied, there is much about the Libyan revolution that is unique, according to Laith Kubba, Senior Director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at the National Endowment for Democracy. Kubba points out that the uprising in Libya largely mirrored the Tunisia and Egypt uprisings; however, Gaddafi, and what he was capable of inflicting, was very different from any other leader in the region. In response to what looked to be a significant humanitarian crisis, the United Nation Resolution (1973) to intervene in Libya violated sovereignty, even as lives were saved.

As reconstruction begins, there are serious obstacles that may require immediate and sustained attention within Libya in order to achieve stability and maintain peace. This report examines three broad areas for lessons within Libya: 1) governance and stability; 2) development; and 3) international implications. Additionally the report engages in meaningful discussion of ways forward that support the development of a vibrant and stable Libyan society.