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The unbearable ease of the Libya war

LIBYA / Following the Jan Petersen Committee's report on the Libya war in September 2018 – and after the Storting's lack of reactions – several academics are upset.


The committee had completely disregarded the catastrophic consequences of the war, it had no interest in who Norway and NATO had bombed for victory, and it had not sought to find out whether there was cover for the allegation that Muammar Gaddafi's forces had attacked civilians – the claim that had legitimized the war in March 2011. It was Rune Ottosen, professor emeritus at OsloMet, Tormod Heier, professor and lieutenant colonel at the Norwegian Defense College, and Terje Tvedt, professor of history at the University of Bergen, to initiate a broad investigation of the Libya war.

The result of the war was political and economic collapse, war between militias and tribes, a humanitarian crisis and a refugee crisis.

Some believe that the Petersen Committee's weaknesses were narrow mandates and incompetence. But if Petersen had thought it necessary to extend the mandate, he would have been able to do so, and already two years earlier – in September 2016 – the British lower house published its investigation, which was a shattering criticism: many were aware from the outset that the revolt was characterized by militant Islamists and that there was no cover for the allegation that Gaddafi had attacked civilians or would start killing civilians. The report also showed that the war was a disaster:

«The result was political and financial collapse, war between militias and tribes, a humanitarian crisis and a refugee crisis, extensive violations of human rights, the proliferation of Gaddafi regime weapons throughout the region, and the rise of ISIL in North Africa. "

The authorities were fooled

One would think that the Petersen Committee should take this criticism over. But the committee did not, and here Heier, Ottosen and Tvedt catch up. Tvedt takes up the Norwegian idea of ​​war as "the will of the world community". He quotes British Commissioner Crispin Blunt as saying: "The original aim of the military intervention to protect Benghazi was achieved within 24 hours" (actually within 2-3 hours when French aircraft had eliminated the Benghazi government forces). Ottosen says that "Norwegian media failed with a few exceptions". Morten Bøås at NUPI refers to the war as a disaster for North Africa. Professor of Political Science, Øyvind Østerud, compares the Norwegian and British reports. Geir Ulfstein, professor with international law as a specialty, writes that Norway "contributed to a violation of international law". I refer in my chapter to the Norwegian authorities being completely deceived.

Libya: the unbearable ease of war

The book of the same name as this article was launched at Cappelen-Damm on September 13th. The Conservative leader of the British Commission, Crispin Blunt, had agreed to participate, and Petersen had also agreed – but Petersen had never been able to participate in such a thing, and some loyalty must be accepted between British and Norwegian parties. Blunt announced that he could not come.

See also: Libya report (

Ola Tunander
Ola Tunander
Tunander is Professor Emeritus of PRIO. See also wikipedia, at PRIO: , as well as a bibliography on Waterstone

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