Counting the Costs of the Libyan War Ten Years Later | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Counting the Costs of the Libyan War Ten Years Later

The U.S.-led military intervention in Libya began ten years ago this month, and a decade later there has still not been a proper reckoning for the failure of a war that was neither legal under U.S. law nor justified. The Libyan war’s architects no longer boast about their "good" intervention, but there is no evidence that they have learned anything from their failure nor has there been any accountability for those responsible. Libya has been consigned to ongoing strife and instability since 2011, and the surrounding region has been convulsed by the aftershocks of the collapse of the old Libyan government. The Libyan war was not necessary for US or European security, and its destabilizing effects on North and West Africa have made Libya’s neighbors worse off than they were. The Libyan intervention failed in its stated goal of protecting the civilian population, and it caused more harm than it prevented.

One of the largely unexamined costs of the war has been the damage that it did to Congress’ role in matters of war. Obama had no authority to order US forces to attack the Libyan government. The Libyan government had not attacked and did not threaten the US or US forces. There was absolutely no justification under US law to engage in hostilities against that government, and Congress never voted to authorize US military operations in Libya. The US hid behind the fig leaf of a Security Council resolution, but that didn’t make it any less of an overreach by the president. The Obama administration lamely claimed that US forces were not engaged in hostilities because the other side could not effectively shoot back, but Obama violated the Constitution and ignored the requirements of the War Powers Resolution. Normalizing illegal, unauthorized warfare became one of the unfortunate legacies of the Obama presidency, and that practice began with the specious legal arguments offered in support of the Libyan intervention in 2011.