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The uprisings and sudden break in the continuity of established autocratic regimes and political institutions of states in the Middle-East and North Africa took their respective regimes by surprise, particularly in Libya. By 20th February 2011, the unrest in Libya had spread from Benghazi to the capital of Tripoli. The protesters took the law into their own hands and turned rebellious; destroying; looting; burning down several government buildings, banks, and police stations; and calling on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to step down and democratize. In response to the unrest, the Libyan leader began a violent crackdown on mass anti-regime rebels, which resulted in strong condemnation by the international community. This study will examine the role of the West, international organizations, and their military intervention.


Human activities around the world are increasingly linked together through flows of communications, ideas, and production. Keohane explains this inter-connectivity as globalism, which he define “as a state of the world involving networks of interdependence of multi-continental distances linked through flows of capital and goods, information, technologies and ideas, people and force, as well as environmentally and biologically relevant substance.”[1] Advances in technology and the rapidly growing popularity in the use of the Internet have brought awareness to people of the Middle East and North Africa, as they previously had little or no knowledge beyond their borders. With the use of social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Dailymotion, and YouTube, these people could communicate more with the outside world, which gave them insight into how things are done outside their region.

The internet and social media networks played a crucial role in the upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa. The uprisings experienced in the Middle-East, and North Africa has resulted in partial or complete overthrows of established autocratic regimes by those who were previously subjected to it. After the uprisings that overturned the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt, their immediate neighbor Libya experienced a full-scale revolt beginning on 15th February 2011.

The popular unrest began as a series of protests and confrontations against the Government of Libya and its leader Muammar Gaddafi. The unrest was centered on Libya’s two largest cities, Tripoli in the west and Benghazi in the east. The rebels destroyed and looted enormous stockpiles of weapons after burning several security and government buildings.[2] By 18th February 2011, with some support from police and defecting military units, the rebels were able to take over Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city. The government reacted by sending elite troops, which were resisted by the rebels and insurrectionary members of the military.[3]

The use of violence against the Libyan rebels and civilians by Gaddafi’s regime drew international condemnation. The rest of this study is divided into three sections: definition of terms is given in section 2. A conceptual framework is given in section 3, followed by the role of the West and the international community, including the involvement of the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), in section 4.


Kenneth Roth has argued that military intervention should never be taken lightly, even for humanitarian purposes, because death, destruction, and disorder are the predictable consequences of most wars. However, the imperative of stopping or preventing another systematic slaughter can sometimes justify the use of military force.[4]

Meanwhile, intervention according to Bhikhu Parekh “is an act of intervening in the internal affairs of another country with a view to end the physical suffering caused by the disintegrations or gross misuse of authority of the state, and helping to create conditions in which a viable structure of civil authority can emerge.”[5] On this basis, the prevention of widespread physical suffering or death, taking place as a result of gross misuse of authority of a state, can constitute a just cause for intervention.

For Adam Roberts, it means “intervening in a state militarily, without the approval of its authorities, and with the purpose of preventing widespread suffering or death among the inhabitants.”[6] That is, military action can thus justify humanitarian intervention, in a situation when all necessary measures have been taken to avert suffering caused by repressive government or internal conflicts which civil and political rights of the citizens are grossly violated.

According to Martha Finnemore, intervention means deploying military forces across borders for protecting foreign nationals from man-made violence, and that such intervention must be multilateral in order to be acceptable and legitimate.[7] Thus, external intervention can be legitimate, provided it is conducted according to generally accepted international norms and is based on humanitarian concerns or the desires to prevent killings, sufferings, and massive cross-border flows.[8]

So, for this study, military intervention is defined as the use of force across state borders by group of states and regional organizations with degrees of justification and reasons for their action, ostensibly in order to restore peace and security, as well as to end widespread of physical suffering and gross violations of human rights, with multilateral support but without the approval of the state in which the intervention takes place.


After the end of the Cold War, a liberal intervention referred to as ‘humanitarian intervention’ gained popularity, and the principle of state sovereignty was redefined, implying that sovereignty could no longer be used as a shield by any government or state leader to violate the fundamental rights of their citizens with impunity.

According to Fernando Teson, “the ultimate justification for the existence of states is the protection and enforcement of individual rights, a government that abuses these rights betrays the very purpose for which it exists and thereby should not be protected by international law and does not have the right to be free from intervention aimed at reforming its institutions.”[9]

Similarly, Thomas Weiss argues that “the notion that human beings matter more than sovereignty radiated brightly, albeit briefly, across the international political horizon of the 1990s.”[10] The significant shift during this period led the way in redefining state sovereignty, and pressing new humanitarian claims within the international system.


4.1 United Nations

The armed uprising against the four-decade rule of Gaddafi and increased violence by his government to suppress the rebels led to civil war, international condemnation, and military intervention backed by the UN Security Council. On 26th February 2011, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1970, imposing economic sanctions, travel bans, and an arms embargo; freezing Gaddafi’s assets, and those of certain other government officials; and referring the acts of violence by Gaddafi’s regime to the International Criminal Court (ICC).[11] The Council obligated all UN member states to freeze without delay all funds, financial assets, and economic resources, which are on their territories and which are owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by the individuals or entities listed in the resolution.[12]