Precision and Purpose: Airpower in the Libyan Civil War

By Gregory Alegi; Christian F. Anrig et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
Strategic and Political Overview of the Intervention

Christopher S. Chivvis


Introduction

This chapter provides an overview of the 2011 Libya intervention as a foundation for the “national” chapters that follow. It recounts how the coalition was formed, why the United States and its allies went to war, and the deliberations over NATO’s role. It then explains the overall course of the campaign as it developed from March through October 2011, identifying some of the implications for the Atlantic Alliance. Many of the events and issues introduced here are examined in more detail in subsequent chapters that focus on participating nations.


Libya and the Arab Uprisings

The Arab Spring began with the self-immolation of a vegetable vendor in Tunisia on December 17, 2010, which sparked a broader uprising against Tunisia’s long-standing dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Ben Ali was forced into exile on January 14. A wave of revolt then spread across the region, to Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, and especially Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down on February 11.

Mubarak’s departure gave further impetus to unrest across the Middle East and North Africa, first and foremost in Libya, which Colonel Muammar Qaddafi had ruled for 41 years. Initial protests began in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, but within a few days, revolutionary councils were springing up nationwide. Regime authorities were chased from their positions in several cities as rebel movements suddenly found themselves in control of a significant part of Libyan territory.

Much of the rebel-held territory was in Libya’s eastern province of Cyrenaica, where Qaddafi’s hold had always been tenuous. Benghazi was Libya’s second-largest city and the main power center of Cyrenaica, which itself was in many ways disconnected from Tripolitania to the west, the location of both the Libyan capital Tripoli

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