Libya has a become a mortal test of liberal interventionism

The United Nations Security Council last night voted to authorise the imposition of a no fly zone and supporting military action in defence of the Libyan people.

The United Nations Security Council last night voted to authorise the imposition of a no fly zone and supporting military action in defence of the Libyan people. UNSCR 1973 (2011) – citing a “gross and systematic violation of human rights” – imposes a no fly zone, expands the arms embargo and freezes Libyan government assets.


Critically, the resolution was passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter which enables military action in the name of international peace and security. As such, the resolution is far stronger than many UN critics might have expected.

The resolution acknowledges the vital regional support of the Arab League and states that the United Nations:

“Authorises Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.”

The passage of the resolution is a major success for US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who has overcome strong internal opposition within the Obama Administration from outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

The resolution is also a vindication of a classic liberal interventionist willingness to trade speed of escalation for scale of escalation – i.e. an acceptance that whilst it may take longer for a humanitarian intervention to be mounted with military backing, when it does occur it is with greater legitimacy and potential force.

This doctrine, practiced in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and East Timor in the pre-Iraq era, will now be put the test in Libya.

12 Responses to “Libya has a become a mortal test of liberal interventionism”

  1. Thom Stitt

    RT @leftfootfwd: UN authorises "all necessary measures" to protect Libyans from Gaddafi: http://bit.ly/fKQg4L #Libya #FreeLibya

  2. Kaisie Rayner

    RT @leftfootfwd: UN authorises "all necessary measures" to protect Libyans from Gaddafi: http://bit.ly/fKQg4L #Libya #FreeLibya

  3. alexsobel

    RT @leftfootfwd: UN authorises "all necessary measures" to protect Libyans from Gaddafi http://bit.ly/gh8itW -> Good analysis here

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  5. Where does Bahrain go from here? | Left Foot Forward

    […] The GCC and Arab League’s unexpected support for a no-fly zone broke last week’s diplomatic impasse, and their promised role (at least that of Qatar and the UAE) in any intervening coalition was critical in persuading the United States to throw its weight behind the expansive resolution that was dramatically passed last night. […]

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    […] the international community finally agreeing to take military action to reverse the recent momentum of Colonel Gaddafi’s forces, former Army […]

  7. Look Left – World finally decides to take action against Gaddafi | Left Foot Forward

    […] United Nations finally voted to take action against Colonel Gaddafi last night, authorising the imposition of a no fly zone and supporting […]

  8. SimonB

    About bloody time too!

  9. Mr. Sensible

    I think the correct decision has been made.

  10. David Mullen

    Where is liberal intervention when it comes to Bahrain who have called in foreign troops to brutalise their civilian population with British and American weapons. Like Libya the government of Bahrain do not have the support of the majority of their people but it appears that the actions of Saudi Arabia and others appears to have the support of the US and the UK.

  11. UN Security Council Resolution 1973, Libya « WesternDefenseStudiesInstitute

    […] UN authorises “all necessary measures” to protect Libyans from Gaddafi (leftfootforward.org) […]

  12. Where does NATO, Cameron, and the West stand after the Libyan intervention? | Left Foot Forward

    […] a militarily practicable mission allowed interventionists to trade speed of escalation for scale of escalation – a slower, more secure escalation – and thus achieve […]

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