Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type



International Relations

First Advisor

Nicholas Rush Smith


Foreign Intervention, State Failure, Libya, Responsibility to Protect, NATO, Middle East


This thesis investigates the relationship between foreign intervention and state failure. I argue that even an ideal international multilateral humanitarian intervention in a weak state will lead to deepening state failure if the intervention was biased and driven by material rather than ethical interests, focusing on achieving military victory of one party of the internal conflict rather than a negotiated settlement between all conflict parties and ignores the responsibility to rebuild in the aftermath of the intervention.

In making this argument, I developed a conceptual framework to analyse the impact of intervention motives, patterns, forms and instruments on strengthening or decreasing the capacity of the state to carry out its functions on the political, security, and economic levels. I applied this framework on the Libyan case study, focusing on intervention in Libya in 2011. Libya has long been a weak state which persisted during the Gaddafi regime. Prior to the intervention in 2011, the Gaddafi regime’s opening with western countries harvested the seeds for political change. The motives of the interveners in Libya in 2011 were mainly self-interested rather than the declared humanitarian purposes to protect civilians. The interveners’ political end goal was centered around Gaddafi regime change and the military mission evolved to match this political goal. The instruments of intervention were both military and non-military under authorization from the UN Security Council. The pattern of intervention was a biased intervention that altered the balance of power in favour of the rebels with the aim of helping them achieve fast victory rather than achieving a negotiated settlement. With the ousting of Gaddafi regime, the military intervention ended without engaging in a state building effort. The result was that in the aftermath of the intervention, Libya turned from a weak state during the Gaddafi regime into a failed state during the post-Gaddafi regime.



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