Operation Odyssey Dawn and Lessons for the Future
Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States
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When the Arab Spring blew through the Middle East in early 2011, leaders toppled in Egypt and Tunisia and sat nervously in countries from Jordan to Yemen, awaiting the outcome of a growing uneasiness moving throughout the region. As this desire for change hit Libya, Qaddafi and his loyalists set out to crush the movement in a bloodletting none would forget. Sensing the volatile situation, the international community raised a cry for action. After a series of talks among world leaders who articulated their own nuanced interests regarding the dilemma, a series of United Nations Security Resolutions mandating action were passed.In a coalition with French and British forces, the US effort to protect Libyan civilians was initiated under the name Operation ODYSSEY DAWN with the British element labeled Operation Ellamy. Established to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and to police a no-fly zone over the country, the coalition quickly had a positive impact on the rebel movement and then shifted under NATO leadership with the moniker of Operation Unified Protector.The effort was widely considered an overwhelming success due to the decisive effects delivered by friendly forces, all with zero coalition loss of life. Many then began to question if this was now the template for future humanitarian intervention The answer from most of those directly involved is no. However, through careful examination of the geopolitical environment, policy decisions, and the operation itself, policy makers are provided with several useful tools for the future.