Syria Attack: Before We Decide Anything, Let's See How Libya Turned Out


Despite some similarities, Secretary of State John Kerry has tried to distance Syria from the U.S. intervention in Libya. He'd be wise to. In order for the actions to be comparable to Libya, the outcomes should be comparable, and that's not good for proponents of Syrian intervention. Libya is currently in chaos, and on the verge of causing major economic repercussions globally. It's time to examine the long-term effect of intervention in Libya before making it the poster child for Syria.

For the American media, the saga of the Libyan Civil War ended with the quagmire of the assault on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi. The debate on whom to blame has taken the spotlight away from what actually transpired in Libya.

The definition of success in Libya is apparently the effectiveness of the no-fly zone, strategic bombings, and support of the Libyan rebels in their take down of longtime dictator Muammar Gadhafi. If that were it, it'd be mission accomplished. However, Libya still had the challenge of rebuilding itself. While the National Transitional Council took over after the deposition, and was then democratically changed to a permanent General National Congress, the centralized government is hardly strong enough to deal with the chaos that has spawned from the decrease in oil production. The government's own figures are troubling.

Libya's asset to the global community was certainly its oil production. The problem is that the current oil export is only at 20% of total output in pre-war conditions. Especially troubling is the decrease of 1.4 million barrels of oil a day to 160,000 barrels in just the last year alone. Crude oil is at a record low 80,000 barrels a day.

The export problems are due to armed militia groups who seized various refineries across the country in the fallout of Gaddafi's government. In some cases, the militias have been diverting barrels to the black market for private profit. This created decreased production in stable refineries that have to divert their own products to keep other refineries running. The inequalities between western and eastern refineries have prompted workers in the east to strike as well.

The lack of oil exports has become a substantial lack of demanded commodities in the global market, prompting higher prices for the in-demand and dwindling product.

The inability of the government to combat the decreased export problem has ruined public confidence and opened a power vacuum for militias to run rampant across the cities as well. These same militias have acted outside the law and killed protesters.

It's not a pretty picture, and hardly a sign of long-term success.

Despite the initial definition of success in Libya, based on specific short-term goals, the long-term progress of the troubled nation is nothing for the U.S. to boast about. Kerry's distancing of Syria from Libya may not be as obvious as his rhetoric about avoiding the next Iraq or Afghanistan, but that's because the outcome of Libya remains largely unknown. So, before any comparisons or rejections of comparison, what actually happened in Libya should at least be discussed before any U.S. intervention in Syria.