Who Lost Libya?

Obama’s Intervention in Retrospect

Marking the third anniversary of the start of the battle for Benghazi, March 2014. Esam Omran Al-Fetori / Reuters


It is tempting to view the chaos in Libya today as yet one more demonstration of the futility of U.S.-led military interventions. That is precisely the case that Alan Kuperman makes in his article (“Obama’s Libya Debacle,” March/April 2015), which asserts that NATO’s 2011 intervention in Libya was “an abject failure” that set free Libya’s vast conventional weapons stockpiles, gave rise to extremist groups, and even exacerbated the conflict in Syria. Today, no one involved in Libya policy since the overthrow of Muammar al-Qaddafi is satisfied with how events have unfolded. As Kuperman rightly notes, U.S. President Barack Obama has said that what has happened there is one of his greatest regrets and that he draws lessons from it when considering U.S. military interventions elsewhere.

But Kuperman goes much further, arguing that the situation that led to NATO’s intervention wasn’

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