Five years after the revolution in Libya erupted against the Muammar el-Qaddafi regime in February 2011, the United States is once again contemplating a military intervention in the North African country. The need for U.S. action against the Islamic State in Libya is stark. The Islamic State (IS) first emerged in Libya in late 2014 by gaining small numbers of adherents from the country’s patchwork of Islamist militant organizations. Since then, the Islamic State has managed to establish cells across the country.
Tactical gains against ISIS/ISIL, such as the retaking of Ramadi, should not be mistaken for strategic success. Dislodging ISIS from large swaths of Iraq and Syria will not address the conditions that made the group’s rise possible—the political oppression and destitution of large populations in both countries.