The Western World’s War Against Gaddafi

Alexey Malashenko
The launch of U.S. and European military operations against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi could have unexpected consequences and encourage some regimes to step up their efforts to develop a weapons arsenal in order to prevent the possibility of outside attack.
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France—and then other countries in Europe and the United States—made good on their threats to launch military operations against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi on March 19. Many commentators predicted from the start of the uprising in Libya that Gaddafi’s days were numbered, but few guessed that the Libyan revolutionaries would need outside help in their battle.  

With the operations now underway, what are the preliminary conclusions one can draw so far?

First, it seems that Europe and the United States will continue to be involved in the political developments underway in the Arab and Muslim world. Unlike the Taliban in Afghanistan, or Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, it has been a long time since Gaddafi was seen as a threat by international community, in spite of the rather provocative foreign policy he pursued. He was not manufacturing chemical weapons and, at least in recent years, was not helping international terrorists. If he had succeeded in putting down the uprising swiftly, it is unlikely his relations with Europe and the United States would have undergone any substantial change.

Second, potential revolutionaries—in Yemen, for example—have hopes of receiving outside support if the regimes they are protesting take too hard-fisted an approach to ending their protests and ignore humanitarian norms—although it is practically inevitable that humanitarian norms are violated when bitter revolutionary struggles get underway.

Third, the West’s decision to intervene in Libya may send a signal to some dictatorial regimes to tread more carefully or face the threat of serious outside pressure.

Fourth, and perhaps most important, the West’s actions set a precedent that could have unexpected consequences. Leaders of some countries might be scared to take actions that would provoke outside intervention. Others, however, might hasten to prevent the possibility of outside attack by, for example, stepping up efforts to develop devastating weapons. This isn’t without precedent; Gaddafi himself dreamed of building up his weapons cache.  

Fifth, it will be interesting to see how the airstrikes against Libya will affect the unrest in the Middle East. The resolute line the U.S.-European coalition is taking on Libya might intimidate some forces in the Middle East, as in other regions, but might provoke others into even more radical action. 

Sixth, Islamist parties and movements remain an unknown factor in all of this upheaval. Will the Islamists, who have been more or less on the sidelines during this year’s political turmoil, continue to remain passive? Or will they take a more active role? 

Seventh, there is the indirectly related issue of how Muslim immigrants in Europe will react to the West’s actions. For example, will French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s passionate determination be seen by Muslim immigration populations as an indication of his firm intention to cut the Gordian knot of tensions between Muslims and the French natives in France?

Finally, it seems that Russia has taken the right line in this situation. Russia could not influence the situation in Libya and did not want to actively intervene. Such restraint demonstrates that Moscow is aware of the place Russia holds in today’s international politics.

End of document

In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

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