Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 350–367 | Cite as

Full circle: two decades of NATO intervention

  • Carl Cavanagh HodgeEmail author


For all its shortcomings, the intervention of the NATO alliance in the struggle of Libyan rebel forces to overthrow the regime of Muammar Gaddafi was a remarkably cost-effective multilateral effort in regime-change by military force. The use of air power to support insurgent forces in Libya, combined with the refusal to commit NATO ground troops, resembles the final iteration of the alliance’s intervention in the serial wars of the Yugoslav succession, 1991-1999 and has little in common with the decade-long effort in counterinsurgency and nation-building in Afghanistan following the events of 11 September 2001, other than a measure of humanitarian benefit to the target population in each case. This article will argue that the nature of the Libyan intervention reflects above all the exhaustion of the alliance’s enthusiasm for expeditionary humanitarianism over the course of the past 20 years, due above all to the cost and complexity of its mission in Afghanistan. In effect, NATO practiced in Libya the art of the possible, acting upon the lowest common denominator of political will among the member-states at a time when future defence austerity is likely to make Libya the exception to a rule of future restraint.


NATO intervention Kosovo Libya 


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Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of British Columbia-OkanagaKelownaCanada

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