Libya is a prominent example. The country’s longtime dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, was hardly a model of good governance; corruption and repression were indelible characteristics of his rule. Nevertheless, Qaddafi was able to maintain a modicum of stability and order, and Libya was a modernizing society with increased signs of prosperity. However, like many of the colonies that the European powers had slapped together, Libya was a fragile entity with some major societal and political divisions. Rival tribes in the western and eastern portions of the country feuded frequently, and rebellions against Qaddafi’s western‐based regime had flared on several occasions.
When another of those periodic rebellions erupted in early 2011, Barack Obama’s administration (along with several European members of NATO) decided to aid the eastern rebels in their insurgency. Although masked as a purely humanitarian effort to protect civilians, the resulting military intervention quickly became a flagrant regime‐change war, and it succeeded in the short‐term, as the insurgents overthrew and killed Qaddafi. U.S. officials took great satisfaction in NATO’s achievement, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton making the flippant observation: “We came, we saw, he died.”