Advancing a Free Society

Lessons of the Libya War

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The leaders of the Free World must have heaved sighs of relief when Tripoli fell to rebel forces. Despite the involvement of the world’s premier military alliance and the three most formidable militaries in the world, it took more than five months of NATO air strikes to assist the rebels to victory over a third-rate despot. Their success in overthrowing the Ghadafi regime is good for the people of Libya, but what might it portend for other rebellions and for the United States?

Ghadafi Didn’t Do Half Badly

The countries that intervened in Libya to assist the rebels hoped that their involvement would signal the resolve of the West to protect vulnerable populations, advance the West’s values, and prevent dictators from preying violently on their own people. Those may not be the lessons other dictators take from the war.

To give a quantitative tale of the tape: the United States spent roughly $687 billion on its military last year, France spent $61 billion, and Britain spent $57 billion. How much did Libya spend? $1.1 billion. Holding off the world’s most powerful military alliance for five months with  one eight hundredth of its spending is a pretty good return on investment.

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