AbstractsPolitical Science

Saving the Libyans and skipping the Syrians, what’s the deal with that?

by J.A.H. Aarts

Institution: Leiden University
Year: 2015
Keywords: Libya; Syria; Conflict; Humanitarian Intervention
Record ID: 1264473
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/32871


The year 2010 inaugurated a tumultuous period for a range of countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Protests compelling for democratization culminated in violent clashes between rebels and authoritarian regimes across the region. In response to the escalation of violence in Libya, an alliance of countries established a no-fly zone for halting the exorbitant regime violence against the rebels and the population. Shortly after, NATO took over command. A similar intervention in Syria did not occur, in spite of the widespread human rights violations and grave human suffering. A comparison between the cases of Libya and Syria sheds light on the factors that shaped the different international community responses to the conflicts and also contributes to the greater puzzle of why states intervene in some atrocities but not in others. This study found that a prime factor impacting humanitarian intervention occurrence in Libya and Syria is the UN Security Council’s task to provide authorization within a context of disputed legality of humanitarian interventions. In addition, it is concluded that UNSC member’s positions with respect to intervening were guided by their political interests and to a lesser extent by their economic interests. Finally, the anticipated outcomes of the two humanitarian intervention scenarios influenced intervention behavior, which explains why only one intervention was conducted. All these factors are indispensable components of an inclusive explanation for the different responses to the civil wars in Libya and Syria.