What was NATO's stated problem with the late Muammar Gaddafi's leadership as the leader of Libya? What possibly would have led NATO signatories to be all over his rule and yet the citizens were happy (most of them); like everything was okay as far as the living standards of the people, the free education, and the rich oil resource. Wasn't he a benevolent dictator if dictatorship was anything to go by?

  • I was wondering why Him and yet The Zimbabwean counterpart is a filthy dictator and the country is miserable what is the motivation behind NATO intervening Gadafis Rule and he is not the worst so to speak
    – mykey
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 15:57
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    Mugabe is just one step behind, he is certainly a pariah. Nobody is considering military action but there are countless dictators that have an easier relationship with the west than Mugabe. In that case, it's not the only reason but distance is certainly a factor. That said, as I have already noted, you are definitely right that there is a lot of arbitrariness in this and that there are many other very bad dictators out there. But that's a completely different thing than implying that there was nothing wrong with Gaddafi or that he was “benevolent”.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 17:39
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    For once, neither the NATO nor the USA did not start the overthrow of Gadaffi. It started as an internal revolt by the citizens that "loved him so much" (IIRC because of the brutal repression of a mutiny in a prison). Some countries in the NATO had one or two "pending issues" with Gadafi and used the situation in their favour, but they did only help the people that already had rebelled against Gadaffi. Since it is a pretty recent event, probably you can check the newspapers of these days yourself over the net.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 17:40
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    Gaddafi was benevolent in the same way as God is supposed to be as long as you stick to his religion. If you don't, then all hell will break loose (take e.g. Sodom and Gomorrah). Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 22:27
  • Maybe this question should ask how the West profited from the overthrowing of Gaddafi or how democracy in Libya and standards of living fared. These are all answerable question. As it is this questions asks multiple questions "Was Gaddafi a benevolent dictator" can be answered quite independent from "Why was the military intervention conducted". Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 12:51

4 Answers 4


There were no real problems with Gaddafi. It was just a declared US policy change to stop supporting dictators like him.

Secretary Condoleezza Rice Cairo, Egypt June 20, 2005

For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East -- and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.


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    That's what she said, but is that the true motivation?
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 15:17
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    @gerrit This is an anwer to the question. If you want to know about motivation please ask another question :-)
    – kaboom
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 17:41
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    So NATO spent approximately $1 billion to "support democracy"? Maybe...... they are lying...
    – user
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 19:05

Your question starts from a couple of false assumptions.

With big oil revenues and a small population Libyans could have been richer than the Norwegians, but that never happened. Furthermore the Western nations to oust Gaddafi exploited the internal dissent. This means that a lot of people were not happy with his regime, therefore calling him a benevolent dictator is a strong assertion.

Another incorrect assertion is calling it a NATO intervention. It was a military intervention led by UK, France and the USA, plus the Gulf states that provided weapons and support for the militias. Most of the NATO countries did not participate.

As for the stated goals, at the time there were mixed declarations and goals. The British media recalled many times the stories of the Lockerbie bombing and the shooting at the Libyan embassy in London. BTW I cannot find any reference on the internet now, but I well remember that soon after Gaddafi's death James Cameron was interviewed by the BBC and he declared "Finally Libya has been democratised".

The Americans feigned little interest and made the usual claims about democracy, but on the other hand they sheltered General Haftar for a long time and sent him back to Libya as soon as Gaddafi was ousted. This shows that they always kept an eye on Libya and kept themselves always ready to intervene.


The same question can be asked about what was wrong with Mubarak. Definitely Mubarak conducted pro-Western policy not only in the latest years.

Currently the West supports radical islamists in the Arab world, such as Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra front in Syria and Muslim Brotherhood. People like Gaddaffi, Mubarak, Assad are the obstacles for the islamists so the West wants them to be desposed.

With Gaddaffi additional issues were his image (the clothing, the gold-knitted uniform etc which supports the image of a "mad" dictator) and his (alleged) past deeds.

A Gaddaffi's mistake was that he thought that he could win Western favor by his loyal policy. Particularly, in the later years

  • His regime conducted torture and imprisonment on various terrorists handled to him by the West. The West used him to do things which were illegal in western countries.

  • He financially supported the pro-Western "orange revolution" in Ukraine (2004).

  • He financially supported some right-wing western politicians, like Sarkozy in France in hope they would become more friendly to him.

  • He tried to improve relations with Israel (with no success).

His son and likely successor Seif(executed recently by the new regime) had even more pro-Western attitude.

  • What do you mean when you say the west wants them desposed? @Anixx
    – mykey
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 22:08
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    This sounds more like an incoherent rant full of Russian propaganda than an actual explanation…
    – Relaxed
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 23:27
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    -1: this answer is full of unreferenced claims and bare-word accusations. All claims should be either backed with credible references and reworded, or completely removed. Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 7:11
  • the US torcheres in Guantanamo Bay, today still...think about it
    – WayneEra
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 10:41
  • "His son and likely successor Seif(executed recently by the new regime)" Here in the Western world there is no news about such execution. According to what we know he is still alive. Where did you get that information from?
    – FluidCode
    Commented Jul 4, 2022 at 13:55

You are asking the incorrect question.

NATO's objective is not to bring about justice in every corner of the world. NATO is a US-led coalition whose objective is to safeguard Western (i.e., US & its allies) interests.

Gaddafi was removed mainly because he had an anti-USA stance. He was a nuisance for the USA.

Among other things -

  1. the USA/UK accused him of the Lockerbie bombing
  2. he proposed the ditch of USD in favor of a pan-African currency (probably, Gold-backed)
  3. He had a nuclear program (which he ditched and that was the point of start of his demise)
  4. France wanted full control over Libyan oil fields (which they couldn't because of Turkish intervention later on)
  • As I already explained calling it "NATO's objective" is not correct.
    – FluidCode
    Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 16:40
  • Lockerbie bombing was mainly a British concern.
    – FluidCode
    Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 16:41
  • @user366312: Useful as Wikipedia can be, it's not a primary source. But even it notes the reluctance of the USA, stating that it looked to the Gulf states. Wikipedia furthermore states that it was Italy who insisted on NATO's role, and that Germany (another bit NATO member) opposed the no-fly zone. And that is probably the biggest problem with this answer: NATO enforced a no-fly zone. That does not remove dictators. Civil war does, however.
    – MSalters
    Commented Jun 30, 2022 at 19:55
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    @user366312 "If NATO was not there in the first place, there wouldn't have been any civil war." Lybian civil war started a full month before NATO intervention. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… for details.
    – Marc
    Commented Jun 30, 2022 at 21:05

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