What started as a simple protest in February 2011 gained momentum to be one of the most crucial revolutions that attracted the world’s attention. On 16 Feb 2011 in the Libyan city of Benghazi, 200 protesters came to the streets to show support of human rights activist Farthi Terbil detained by the government . The move was despised by the leadership of Col. Gadhafi which proclaimed that the government was not and would never be apologetic on issues concerning the detention of people who were seen as enemies of the state.
After only three days, the peaceful demonstrations turned to chaos with protesters clashing with security forces leaving 24 civilians killed, this prompted similar demonstrations in various cities of the country.
On 6th March, after losing government control in Misrata, Tobruk, Zawiya, Brega, Benghazi, and other significant population centres, Gaddafi launched a counteroffensive campaign to regain control .
The government used force to displace the protesters who were determined to end dictatorial leadership in the country, tanks were used to shell people and buildings, many were injured and others killed by these attacks raising fears of a massacre if Gaddafi was to regain control, particularly of the second city Benghazi, a move that sparked western involvement. Pressure from France, US, and the UK for intervention forced the security council to approve a resolution for protecting civilians. On 17th March, a no fly zone was passed to prevent government air attacks on protesters but some Arab and key western governments notably Britain, France, and the U.S., took more aggressive measures in support of the rebels. These ranged from on-the-ground training to supplying arms, providing real-time tactical intelligence and a bombing campaign, until Tripoli fell in late August and Gaddafi was killed two months later.
Gaddafi was an oppressive ruler who led Libya for 42 years. The country had no Parliament, political parties, or NGO’s and no civil society .
He ruled Libya with an iron fist, eliminating any political opposition, restricting people’s rights and worst of all supporting different terrorist groups around the world. The same man was responsible for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people  and he supported the leadership of Iddi Amin a dictator who killed masses in Uganda.
His leadership posed a threat not only to Libya but to countries around the world. Western intervention in the Libyan civil war paved a clear path for the downfall of Gaddafi’s rule. We should consider the downfall of such a dictator to be a success and benefit to Libya and all who Gaddafi threatened.
Intervention was approved under the doctrine responsibility to protect and it aimed at protecting civilians in Libya . While toppling Gaddafi was successful, it did not help in stabilising Libya. Many would prefer stability under a dictatorship than chaos. The situation today is even worse than during Gaddafi’s regime, with insecurity and chaos across the country, increased reports of human rights violation and terrorism .
Intervention however did not restore peace and did nothing to help or protect civilians in the longer term.
From the day of the uprising in Benghazi, the government was committed to fight back till the end. Gaddafi asserted that he will chase down the protesters and cleanse house by house while his son said that rivers of blood would flow with thousands of deaths, if the uprising didn’t stop .
Military jets and helicopter gunships were indiscriminately unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assault from the air.
The resolution of a no fly zone passed by the security council weakened and prevented government forces from killing people and destroying cities using air strikes. Air strikes went on to destroy artillery, armor and other weapons that could be used for indiscriminate attacks. The intervention therefore stopped large scale civilian bloodshed.
Gaddafi was not deliberately killing civilians but rather targeting armed rebels fighters who were targeting his government. In his words he said he would show no mercy to rebels and did not speak about civilians.
When pro Gaddafi forces regained control of Brega and Zawiyah, there was no bloodshed reported or any conflict harming civilians . We don’t know what would have happened had Gaddafi regained control of Benghazi, but it is likely there would have been no bloodbath.
The uprising sparked off as a concern for freedom in the country, people were tired of the oppressive regime and wanted to be liberated. This could not happen by people power alone; Gaddafi was willing to crack down to prevent it like Assad in Syria did.
Western intervention in the civil war helped the citizens gain power and force to fight for their rights, by providing them with training, intelligence and logistics among others hence ejecting the oppressive leadership a symbol for liberation.
After the civil war, people were able to participate in an election of the national assembly considered free and fair for the first time in Libya. The part of the Mo Ibrahim index that rates participation and human rights rose from 20% in 2010 to 30.5% in 2012 . More democratic and accountable government institutions have been set up, NGO’s welcomed and civil society empowered. Libya is becoming much freer with freedom house upgrading the country from ‘not free’ to ‘partially free’ .
Far from creating a liberated and free democracy western intervention has set Libya on the path to becoming a failed state. The country is today ranked among the most insecure countries in the world . Two years after the war, The country has not managed to form a unified police force or a professional army, and it has even formally recognised several of the militias, entrusting them with security tasks . It may be better but freedom of information in Libya is still under threat ? The threat is simply different; less from the state, and more from a chaotic situation. Freedoms are also not gaining ground in all areas; notably there are concerns that religious freedom is declining with the country moving towards Sharia law, and with minorities being attacked and forced to convert to Islam .
NATO’S action increased the conflict’s duration about a six fold and the death toll at least sevenfold, but also increasing human rights abuses, humanitarian suffering, and weapon proliferation in Libya and neighbouring countries . The UN security council approved the resolution for protecting civilians in Libya  but NATO just did the opposite. Their operation came at the expense of increasing harm to Libyans. NATO attacked Libyan forces indiscriminately including those in Sirte who posed no threat to civilians as Sirte remained in government hands right to near the end of the conflict and continued to support the rebels offering them weapons, military training, intelligence and troops on ground , even when they rejected cease fire offers from the government that would have helped end the crisis and spare civilians.
The no-fly zone on its own was not sufficient to protect civilians on the ground. It was the responsibility of NATO to take further action aimed at protecting people whose lives were at risk from gaddafi’s soldiers. This NATO did by attacking military targets such as artillery. This was also part of the UNSC agreement “permit all necessary measures to protect civilians”.
Specifically, NATO targeted military weapon stores and facilities not homes and camps as Gaddafi’s military did. 72 civilians were killed during this bombing campaign  a small number compared to the thousands of sorties. No one can know how long the conflict would have lasted without NATO intervention, it is therefore impossible to state that the conflict lasted six times longer than it would have without NATO involvement.
The toppling of Muammar Gaddafi has had unpleasant side effects. Gaddafi’s army involved a large number of mercenaries, many of them Tuaregs from northern Mali. When Gaddafi was overthrown they returned to their homeland without having given up their arms. These returnees helped spark a rebellion that deposed a democratically elected president under a coup and prompted yet another western intervention.
In Libya the situation never fully calmed down with the country left dealing with militia groups and terrorist attacks. The US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens was killed, Prime minister Ali Zaidan was kidnapped and there are reports of ongoing insurgencies . Previously Libyans may have lived under an eccentric dictator but at least they had order and stability.
The Malian conflict is not new and has been on for a long period notably the 1960, 1996 and the 2006 rebellions. It did not break up from the Libyan conflict and additionally the Tuareg were not the only rebels involved in this crisis. The insecurity reports across Libya is typical for every emerging democracy in transition and cannot be a reason to claim that it is not stable. Even the Libyan people accept it with 71% of the population being optimistic about the current situation .
The UN security council approved humanitarian intervention in Libya that ensured a no fly zone to protect civilians from government attacks. However, the west went beyond the resolution’s intent and turned it into a de facto campaign for regime change .
This made Russia and China who initially had opposed any intervention feel cheated. The divide has affected the response of the security council to other crises notably in Syria where over a hundred thousand people have been killed and an even larger number displaced. Russia and China have vetoed resolutions on Syria three times  fearing that it may end like the Libyan case a fact that Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov stressed; “Russia will not allow a repetition of the Libyan scenario in Syria” .
Such divisionism has destroyed the credibility of the security council  and created an unintended casualty of the Libyan intervention.
Russia’s long standing antagonism with the west is not new  and Libya is not the cause. Its reaction towards the Syrian conflict is driven by a complex mixture of political and economic interests including having a naval base in the country .
The UN security council has also continued to ensure that its operations are successful and have acted on the Syrian crisis too.
It approved a mission to destroy chemical weapon stockpiles in Syria and evacuate people from Homs. This shows how the UNSC usually works; where the major powers can agree they do and act, where they can’t the council does nothing. This would have happened in Syria regardless of what occurred in Libya; Syria is simply worth more strategically to Russia than Libya was.
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