African Journal of
Political Science and International Relations

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Pol. Sci. Int. Relat.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1996-0832
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJPSIR
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 382

Full Length Research Paper

Stories behind the western-led humanitarian intervention in Libya: A critical analysis

Nguirane Cheikh
MIMMOC EA 3812, University of Poitiers, France.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 26 April 2013
  •  Published: 30 June 2013


The Western-led NATO intervention in Libya attracted global attention, causing a misunderstanding of the concept of ‘humanitarian intervention’. The level of controversy is not alleged to stem from the imperative ‘to intervene or not to intervene’ but rather from the question ‘what interests were intervening states possibly pursuing’? Comments from the Western hemisphere mainly focused on Qaddafi’s deliberate attempts to obstruct Libya’s path to democracy and fiercely claimed the right to intervene on behalf of the Libyan masses. In another side, however, claims are vehemently made about the primacy and continued resonance of the concept of ‘national sovereignty’, seen as incompatible with any such coercive coalition intervention. While proposing to briefly revisit the doctrine of humanitarian intervention, this article sets out to demonstrate, basing on variables that tie past to present, the degree to which the Western-led NATO intervention in Libya was encouraged by realist interests. Besides confronting the human rights rhetoric of the world leading imperial elites with Qaddafi’s past misdeeds, the paper draws on the various Marxist approaches to neocolonialism to try to determine the reasons for military intervention and the extent to which it was conducted on humanitarian grounds.


Key words: Libya, humanitarian intervention, African Union, Pan-Africanism, neocolonialism, rogue state.