October 24, 2011

Professor Zaki Laidi from Sciences Po in Paris was the featured speaker of “Europe and the Arab Spring: A Paradox,” a discussion presented October 21 by The Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, the Alliance Program and the European Institute.

Laidi offered an overview of the events that led to the NATO intervention in Libya, starting with France’s “fiasco” in Tunisia a few months before. 

“The way France behaved in Tunisia was a large disaster… [and] France’s reaction on Egypt was extremely slow… You cannot explain the strong involvement of France in Libya without the fiasco that took place in Tunisia. France had to fix its image on the world stage. Losing the Arab world is for France a disaster. The stakes were very high.

These high stakes, according to Professor Laidi, are what led France to be a key decision maker for the Libyan intervention. Significantly, he added, the absence of the United States as a key decision maker and leader in NATO’s intervention would become a permanent game-changer.

However, Laidi does not believe that anything has changed for Europe. 

“The French stance is that we need to develop on this intervention to create a European Forces. This proposal has been turned down once again by the British. This means that the Libyan intervention did not change the nature of the constraints that Europeans face… Libya revealed a historical pattern: that you have two major military powers in Europe facing themselves a lot of constraints.

Even though the Americans did not take the lead in the Libyan intervention, Professor Laidi added that it would not have happened without their support.

“The United States played a huge role,” he said.


Michelle Chahine, October 24, 2011