In August 2011, Anne-Marie Slaughter, a prominent advocate of U.S. intervention in Libya, claimed vindication in the article, "Why Libya Skeptics Were Proved Badly Wrong." Americans benefited by helping Libyans fight for the sorts of democratic principles we so often champion, she argued, showing Middle Easterners that we're willing to lend military help even when no oil is at stake. The road ahead in the country may prove difficult, she acknowledged, but no matter:
In a year, or a decade, Libya could disintegrate into tribal conflict or Islamist insurgency, or split apart or lurch from one strongman to another. But the question for those who opposed the intervention is whether any of those things is worse than Col Gaddafi staying on by increasingly brutal means for many more years. Instability and worse would follow when he died, even had he orchestrated a transition.
The sceptics must now admit that the real choice in Libya was between temporary stability and the illusion of control, or fluidity and the ability to influence events driven by much larger forces. Welcome to the tough choices of foreign policy in the 21st century. Libya proves the west can make those choices wisely after all.
That October, Senator John McCain said that the Obama administration "deserves great credit,” adding, “I had different ideas on the tactical side, but the world is a better place.” His quote was picked up by The New York Times in an article that stated, "For President Obama, the image of a bloodied Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi offers vindication, however harrowing, of his intervention in Libya ... with Colonel Qaddafi joining the lengthening list of tyrants and terrorists dispatched during the Obama presidency, even critics conceded a success for Mr. Obama’s approach to war—one that relies on collective, rather than unilateral, action; on surgical strikes rather than massive troop deployments."
Months later, in the April 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs, U.S. officials Ivo H. Daalder and James G. Stavridis published an even more celebratory endorsement of the campaign by the U.S. and its European allies. "By any measure, NATO succeeded in Libya," they wrote. "It saved tens of thousands of lives from almost certain destruction. It conducted an air campaign of unparalleled precision, which, although not perfect, greatly minimized collateral damage. It enabled the Libyan opposition to overthrow one of the world's longest-ruling dictators. And it accomplished all of this without a single allied casualty and at a cost–$1.1 billion for the U.S. and several billion dollars overall–that was a fraction of that spent on previous interventions in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq."