Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails

By Christopher J. Coyne | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Killing People with Kindness

IN MARCH 2 011, under the auspices of UN Security Council Resolution 1973, a multistate coalition began a military campaign in Libya. The intervention was in response to the Libyan Civil War, which initially had emerged from civilian protests a month earlier in the city of Benghazi. The protestors clashed with armed members of the Libyan police and military, who eventually fired on the crowd. The protest quickly spread into a nationwide rebellion leading to violent clashes between opposition forces, who organized under the National Transition Council, and forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s sitting head of state. Resolution 1973 provided authorization to member states to establish and enforce a no-fly zone over Libya in order to protect citizens against attacks from Gaddafi’s forces. With the support of the coalition, which carried out air strikes against Gaddafi’s forces and key infrastructure, the opposition gained ground and, in August, secured control of Libya’s capital, Tripoli. Weeks later, the National Transition Council was officially recognized by the UN as the new, legal representative government of Libya. Gaddafi, who initially avoided capture, was eventually killed by rebel forces in October, which is the same month that the UN Security Council voted to end the mandate for military action.

Many consider the intervention in Libya to be a resounding success and a strong piece of evidence in support of the viability of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine. During a United Nations meeting of world leaders, U.S. president Barack Obama stated that “Libya is a lesson in what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one.”1 Bennett Ramberg, who served in the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs in the U.S. Department of State during the George H. W. Bush administration, concluded that the fall of the Gaddafi regime legitimized the R2P doctrine while putting dictators around the globe on notice.2 Stewart Patrick of the Council of Foreign Relations wrote that Libya

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