The Western-led direct military intervention against the Libyan dictatorship during the Libyan civil war is being blamed by those opposed to such intervention for
instability, of which Islamists have been taking advantage to gain
territory. However, Islamists have been
taking advantage of the Syrian civil war to gain territory in Syria, too, despite
a lack of a direct military intervention against the Syrian dictatorship.
The Syrian example suggests that not intervening military in
would have failed to prevent Islamists from taking advantage in Libya, just as they have in Syria.
Those who oppose interventions of any kind, whether direct or indirect military interventions or even non-military interventions, tend to blame interventions for all of the world’s problems. In this sense, American isolationists, for example, resemble the “Blame America Firsters” of the Left. But their determinist explanations are inconsistent.
Like Syria, Libya was not peaceful before the military intervention, as the Libyan people had revolted against dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who responded by indiscriminately used his armed forces against his own people. The war had become a stalemate by the time the intervention began. As in
Syria, the West was slow to
intervene, which allowed Islamists to begin to co-opt the opposition. The intervention itself was not swift and
decisive, as it took several weeks, with the United States “leading from
behind,” in the words of American President Barack Obama.
The coalition of forces that intervened in
succeeded in helping the Libyan people to overthrow Qaddafi. Afterward, the coalition left Libya to itself
without providing adequate support to the anti-Islamist forces. Therefore, the resultant advances by
Islamists were not the consequences of the intervention, but of the withdrawal
of international support to the new anti-Islamist free Libyan government. Islamists, including al-Qaeda and the
“Islamic State,” have taken advantage of the opportunity to seize territory.
Many of the same critics of the military intervention in
oppose intervention in Syria
against Bashar Assad’s regime, but it is the lack of sufficient intervention in
Syria that has allowed
Islamists to take advantage of the power vacuum there, as in Libya. Islamists have co-opted the opposition in Syria even more than in Libya. Direct military intervention cannot be blamed
for the gains by the Islamists in Syria
because there has been no direct military intervention against Syria’s Assad regime, as against Libya’s
Qaddafi regime, but only indirect limited military support for a relatively
small number of the rebels.
Therefore, some other explanation other than direct military intervention must be to blame for the Islamists’ gains in
Syria, which, in
turn, suggests it was the chaos of the civil war in Syria,
as in Libya,
of which the Islamists took advantage, not the direct military intervention.