In the book, I ask and offer personal answers to these questions: Was the international intervention in Libya a justified response to an impending massacre and wider threat to civilians, or were other motivations involved in seeking to oust Gaddafi and shape the future of an oil-rich country? What were the dynamics that brought about the resolutions of the UN Security Council, including the authorization of military action? How did NATO act upon that authorization, and did it exceed its mandate to protect civilians by seeking regime change? What role in the military victory of the rebels was played by the secretive special forces operations of bilateral actors, and with what consequences? Was there ever a possibility of a peaceful political transition being brought about by the mediation efforts of the UN, the African Union (AU) or others? How well-informed, or how ignorant, were policymakers about Libya and the regional implications of their decisions? What post-conflict planning was undertaken by the UN and other international actors, and by the Libyans themselves, and how did it play out during the first transitional government? Should and could there have been a major peacekeeping or stabilization mission to provide security during the transition, instead of a “light footprint” of the international community? Was the first national election held too soon? Who should and could have done more to help bring the proliferation of armed groups under government authority, and achieve their integration into state security forces or demobilization? In answering each of these questions, I offer my own reflections on the views I held at the time and my reassessment today.
Ian Martin has led UN human rights and peace operations in countries including Rwanda, Timor-Leste, Nepal and Libya. A former Amnesty International secretary-general, in 2011–12 he was Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s post-conflict planning adviser, then UN support mission head, for Libya. His publications on UN intervention include Self-Determination in East Timor.