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April 06, 2016

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What is unclear to me is how significant NATO airpower was to the outcome (as opposed to the time table we reached that outcome).

Hmm....given the government victories up to the point of the intervention, I suspect that had Gaddafi recaptured Benghazi then the outcome would have been:

(i) the death of thousands, in the high thousands (I don't think tens of thousands as many would have fled and once his control was firmly re-established a lot of people would end up being locked up rather than shot)

(ii) the flight of the rebels towards Egypt from whence they would continue attacks into Libya

Now would there have been more deaths? Hmmm...hard to tell. One would have to tabulate all the deaths starting from the intervention up until today and compare it to expected deaths if Gaddafi had quickly and firmly re-established control over Benghazi and then had to deal with sporadic attacks emanating from Egypt. I suspect the death toll might have been roughly similar though the deaths themselves would have all been far more localized to the east of Libya and around the border with Egypt. What would definitely be different is that a lot of infrastructure damaged or lost in the fighting in the centre and west of the country would likely still be intact.

Hamid's argument is pretty tidy and pretty narrow, stopping the negative externalities at the Libyan border. It neglects the idea that in bolstering the weaker side of a civil war, the intervention, exceeding the UN mandate, prolonged the civil war, as well as more destructive. And that leaves aside deaths, chaos, and destruction in Libyan neighbors, like Mali, as well as the proliferation of AQIM and ISIL into West Africa. You could even back-link the terror attacks in Paris to the Libyan intervention.

There's also a lot of spin and buck passing: he wants the intervention justified on the initial rhetoric, not on its actual execution, and pointedly divides the intervention from its aftermath: “the international community’s failures after intervention,” though the intervention, as Hamid sold it at the time, needed no D-Day Plus One Planning.

What they got as result is Somalia on the Med, which is why the Italians have been so hot to drag the US back in, and why people write articles in Vox fighting straw men rather than accounting for their tomfoolery.

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