What Are the Lessons of Libya?

Following the 2011 toppling of Moammar Gadhafi, Libya’s six million inhabitants saw their security and well-being drastically deteriorate. Multiple warring factions have fragmented the country, crippling Libya’s economy, and leading more than 400,000 Libyans to flee their homes.

At the same time, questions persist as to whether this intervention has made the United States or the rest of the world safer. In the wake of the intervention, the inability of the Libyan government to control its territory has presented an opportunity for the movement of weapons across international borders, while creating a potential cauldron for terrorist groups and criminal organizations. While well-intentioned, U.S. efforts in Libya cost $1.1 billion, damaged American non-proliferation efforts, and resulted in numerous unforeseen consequences. In light of this result, it is important to evaluate whether the intervention achieved its objectives, what the consequences were for the U.S.’s broader foreign policy goals, and what can be learned from this experience as U.S. policymakers craft a blueprint for foreign policy in the 21st Century.

Join several leading voices in foreign policy for a spirited discussion on Libya, interventionism, and the future of U.S. foreign policy.


William Ruger, Vice President of Research & Policy, Charles Koch Institute
Ruger serves as the vice president, research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute and the vice president for research at the Charles Koch Foundation. Before coming to the Institute, he was most recently an associate professor at Texas State University. Ruger earned his doctorate in politics from Brandeis University and bachelor’s in government from the College of William and Mary. His work has appeared in International Studies QuarterlyCivil Wars, and Armed Forces and Society, among other outlets. He is also the author of a biography on Milton Friedman and co-author of Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom. Ruger is a veteran of the Afghanistan War.


Christopher S. Chivvis, Associate Director, International Security and Defense Policy Center, RAND Corporation 
Chivvis is associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation and teaches at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He specializes in national security issues in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, and has worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Chivvis is the author of Toppling Qaddafi and the forthcoming The French War on Al Qaida in Africa. He has held research positions at the French Institute for International Relations and at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. His work has appeared in the New York TimesForeign AffairsForeign Policy, National Interest, Survival, Washington Quarterly, Christian Science Monitor, CNN.com, and other leading publications. Chivvis received his doctorate from Johns Hopkins SAIS.

Ivan Eland Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute 
Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received a Master of Business Administration in applied economics and a doctorate in public policy from George Washington University. He has been director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute, and he spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and principal defense analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. Eland is the author of Partitioning Peace, Recarving Rushmore, The Empire Has No Clothes, Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy, No War for Oil, and The Failure of Counterinsurgency.

Alan J. Kuperman, Associate Professor, The University of Texas at Austin
Kuperman is an associate professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin, where he teaches courses in global policy studies and is coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project. His books include The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention: Genocide in Rwanda and Constitutions and Conflict Management in Africa: Preventing Civil War Through Institutional Design. His latest article “Obama’s Libya Debacle” appears in Foreign Affairs. From 2013–2014 he was a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, and from 2009–2010 was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He holds a doctorate in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.