In recent years, the literature on Libya and Syria has significantly expanded. Aran M. Lewis’s Humanitarian and Military Intervention in Libya and Syria: Parliamentary Debate and Policy Failure is valuable work in this field in terms of examining the complexities and challenges surrounding humanitarian and military interventions in the conflicts in Libya and Syria. In the book, the author discusses the parliamentary debates and policy decisions that shaped the international response to these crises and the contradictions that emerged as a result.
The book consists of nine chapters, including an introduction and a conclusion. The methodology chosen to divide the chapters into headings and analyze them separately is influential. The author used thematic analysis, which is a qualitative data analysis system, as a research method since the study is supported by large data sets. In this respect, the study strengthens its claim of being original. Based on the thematic analysis method, dozens of themes related to humanitarian intervention are listed according to the number of repetitions by the speakers selected from the British Parliament and this serves as a data source for the study. On the other hand, the contradictions between the good intentions mentioned in these themes and the actions taken and the negative consequences caused by these actions are investigated.
Considering the debates on Libya and Syria in general, as an example, the themes in the Libya debates section of the study stand out as follows: The humanitarian theme encouraging humanitarian and military intervention, regime change, the protection of lives, the theme of lost/misdirected weapons, commercial opportunities for the United Kingdom.
On the other hand, the five main themes under the other pillar of the study, the Syria debate, can be listed as follows: The theme of killing civilians as an act requiring regime change, oppressive government, humanitarian aid, weapons of mass destruction, the theme of supporting the opposition.
The author argues that the P3 members of the United NationsF Security Council (UNSC) (Britain, the U.S., and France), who were ambivalent about the intervention in Syria but acted swiftly in the military intervention in Libya, caused violations in the NATO-led intervention and started the process that led to contradictions. The fact that the British government, which supported the acceleration of this process, received 557 out of 570 votes in favor of the House of Commons increases Britain’s influence in the intervention. According to the author, although the British government was able to convince the parliament by justifying the military intervention on liberal grounds and the protection of civilians, the abandonment of Libya at its most vulnerable moment shows that the humanitarian justification for intervention was ignored. The withdrawal of NATO planes from the country when they should have been protecting the city as the rebels advanced was enough to topple the dictator Gaddafi, but it should not be overlooked that he was replaced by more tyrants. Ironically, NATO’s declaration of the successful end of the mission in Libya has widened the anarchy in Libya and made it more difficult for civilians to survive. The relative freedom, rule of law, security, and prosperity that existed under Gaddafi has been reduced too much worse levels. Ultimately, NATO and the West’s withdrawal from Libya at a time of need show that they are not capable and/or willing to rebuild the country.
The book’s chapters on Syria also mention that the British Parliament was affected by the negative military interventions in Iraq and Libya. Moreover, the fact that Russia and China, the permanent representatives of the Security Council, are not in favor of intervention in Syria and insist on Assad shows that the process will manifest itself in a different way than in Libya. As a matter of fact, the P3 countries intervened in Syria by supporting the anti-government rebels (military training, weapons, armor, and salaries). These interventions weakened the government while protracted internal conflicts impoverished the population. Moreover, the weakening of the parties in Syria created a power vacuum, which led to the expansion of the sphere of influence of terrorist organizations. Consequently, the policies that the West said it would implement under the theme of humanitarian aid led to worse living conditions for the people living in the region.
In the following chapters, the author emphasizes that the West’s refusal to host millions of refugees in Europe, which has rapidly increased as a result of its policies in Libya and Syria, has actually turned the aid process, which was carried out as humanitarian aid, into a humanitarian disaster campaign. The author then compares the debates on Libya and Syria and argues that the failure and protracted nature of foreign intervention in Syria have led to the theme of intervention being more prominent in the British Parliament.
Although the book was published in 2023, the fact that it does not address all the difficulties experienced after the interventions in the relevant countries stands out as an important deficiency. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic, which started in late 2019 and which even strong countries had difficulty in combating without anarchy, had worse consequences in Libya and Syria, which were weakened by foreign interventions. However, it was observed that this situation was not covered in the book.
In conclusion, the book draws attention to the tendency of the British government to seek political support for military purposes through deception. The long-term negative effects of the active management of this situation in the international arena in Libya and Syria are mentioned. The author argues that these negativities have played an important role in shaping the diminishing willingness of Members of Parliament in the UK to support the use of force for humanitarian reasons. Apart from Iraq, the negative experiences of the interventions in Syria and Libya, which are examined in the book, seem to have influenced decision-making mechanisms for future interventions.
Taken as a whole, the book sheds light on the political, strategic, and historical factors shaping the international response to interventions. Thus, it clearly responds to the discourses in the field of international politics that polemicize Western interventions in the respective countries by using thematic analysis. It is considered to be an important work for students and researchers interested in the field in terms of presenting the Western-led interventions in Libya and Syria, their results, and contradictions in an unbiased and clear manner. On the other hand, it stands out as an important contribution to the literature on international relations and conflict resolution, as well as a courageous publication in terms of processing the negativities. In this context, the book titled Humanitarian and Military Intervention in Libya and Syria: Parliamentary Debate and Policy Failure written by Aran M. Lewis is recommended by me as a book that should be read by those working in this field.