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Libya’s Double Tragedy

Libya's plight resembles that of other war-torn countries in the Greater Middle East: internal conflict has spiraled out of control because of misguided foreign intervention. With Turkey and Egypt now locking horns in the country, Libya's agony is even less likely to be resolved at the ongoing UN talks in Geneva.

PERTH – The plight of oil-rich, tribally segmented Libya resembles that of several other war-torn countries in the Greater Middle East, namely Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen. In each case, a combination of internal strife and misguided external intervention has sustained a long-running conflict.

Recalling the US-led invasions of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) in his 2014 memoir Duty, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates argued that the United States was good at overthrowing a regime, but had no idea what should take its place. The reason, Gates argued, was that the US failed to consider national and regional complexities. The same was true of the 2011 NATO-led military intervention in Libya.

The ongoing Libyan crisis has both internal and external origins. Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s dictatorship was toppled in October 2011 in a popular uprising during the so-called Arab Spring. And Qaddafi fell as a result of a US-backed, Anglo-French armed intervention that the United Nations Security Council had authorized on the basis of the “responsibility to protect” the Libyan people.

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