Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Syrian Example Suggests Non-Intervention Would Not Have Been Better for Libya

           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 Libya’s post-intervention 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 Libya 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 Libya 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 Libya 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.

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