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the midnight hours of an otherwise un-noteworthy March day in 2011, US and UK
guided missile cruisers unleashed a volley of 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles,
each launched with the clear tactical goal of dismantling Libya’s air-defense
network piece-by-piece. As soon as a window of opportunity opened, three US B-2
stealth bombers simultaneously destroyed over 40 hardened aircraft bunkers near
Sirte, further increasing US air dominance. By day three of Operation Odyssey
Dawn, the US-led NATO intervention effectively established a no-fly zone in the
skies above Libya. After another ten days of nonstop air-to-ground sorties, Libya’s
armed forces were virtually eradicated and Muammar Qaddafi’s four-decade long
regime had ended. No longer did the people of Libya have to live in the shadow
of a tyrannical dictator; they were free to decide for themselves, the future
that lay before them. Riding on the heels of the largely secular, youthful, and
democratic Arab Spring, the Libyan independence movement overthrew an oppressive
regime and promised the world that a time of peace and prosperity was upon
Northern Africa. Yet six years later, all that remains of what was once a
sovereign territory is nothing more than a failed state, rife with sectarian
violence- a breeding ground for Islamist extremists. While no one could have
foreseen the incredibly rapid rise and subsequent decline of the Arab Spring,
many scholars and political activists today claim that Libya’s decent into
chaos following the removal of an authoritarian dictator was doomed to happen
the moment cruise missiles descended from the sky on that now-noteworthy March
day in 2011. There is no single decision that led to the destruction of the
Libyan state, rather, streams of politics have been on a path of convergence
far before the phrase “Libyan intervention” entered the minds of lawmakers and
executives in the White House. In fact, that March day in 2011, three unique
and organic tributaries met to form the policy output of selective engagement. Using
John Kingdon’s Multiple Streams Analysis (MSA) framework, this paper seeks to
identify the different problems, policies, and politics in the United States
which led to the current systemic outcome in Northern Africa. Ultimately, the
Arab Spring protests motivated the Obama Administration into action, guided by
selective engagement realist tendencies, the intervention successfully removed
a despot from power, yet left a vast power vacuum in a formerly sovereign


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it comes to foreign policy decisions in the Clinton through Trump presidencies,
Multiple Streams Analysis provides an incredibly powerful tool to investigate
certain outputs, considering each subsequent administration is incredibly
different than the last and each possesses a unique approach to problem
solving. While not discounting the usefulness of Punctuated Equilibrium Theory
and Advocacy Coalition Framework, Multiple Streams analysis is a clear and
concise model by which we can track the reasons why the United States
intervened in Libya. This policy decision is not dissimilar enough from prior
administrations’ foreign policies to use and PET and it was not as
controversial or groundbreaking at the time for the ACF to have any significant
impact on research at this time. That being said, MSA has been thoroughly used
and analyzed over time by various researchers, some which will be used to study
the case of Libyan Intervention. Daniel Beland and Michael Howlett (2016) provides
both a general overview as well as a granular breakdown of multiple streams
theory. While the main argument of this paper regards multiple streams’
validity in comparative politics, its premises and arguments can be applied to
foreign policy analysis as well. Both authors are experts in their respective
fields. Beland is a policy analyst at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada,
and primarily focuses his efforts on breaking down domestic policy. Howlett, a
doctorate holder from Queen’s University, is the chair of Political Science at
the Simon Fraser University and his specialties are public policy, political
economy, and environmental and resource politics. This paper will be used
primarily in two ways. First in outlining the multiple streams framework and
second in breaking down the policy process that resulted in US intervention in
Libya. Additionally, Paul Cairney’s work (2016) will complement the work of
Beland and Howlett in that it will also assist this paper in defining and
applying multiple streams accurately and precisely, chiefly in the “Politics
Stream” section. Cairney also provides insight as to how multiple streams is
similar to the punctuated equilibrium framework. His paper also discusses
multiple streams in light of European Union politics but much of that analysis
will not be discusses in this paper. Cairney’s main conclusion revolves around
the appeal of MSA to policy entrepreneurs due, in part, to its ease of
application and overall utility in achieving policy gains. 

            More on the Libyan case study, Caitlin
Buckley’s (2012) journal article compares the conflicts in Syria to those in
Libya and will be vital to this paper. She carefully breaks down Middle Eastern
politics in a way that can be applied to both the “Problem” Stream and the
“Policy” Stream. Buckley is a foreign affairs analyst who focuses on
federalism, NGOs, and economic development. She is well practiced in the realm
of foreign policy. Her paper, essentially, gives a very detailed look at the
“on-the-ground” situations in both Libya and Syria and links those situations
to policy actors in the US as well as certain IGOs. Buckley’s article will be
used in conjunction with Amos Guiora’s (2012) paper, which also discusses
intervention in Libya and Syria. The latter’s paper deals more in the policy
actors than the policies themselves. Guiora is a professor of law at the
University of Utah and focuses on analyzing the use of drones in
counterterrorist operations. He served in the Israeli Defense Force and
provides the much-needed insight of someone who has experienced the GWoT in
person. In terms of his contributions to this paper, Guiora defends the use of
tactical “targeted killing” of political or military actors (such as Libya’s
Gadhafi), as a means to avoid conflict exacerbation. His journal article looks
at the Obama Administration and its role in Middle Eastern conflict. It
compares the war in Libya to that in Syria and links them both together to the
policy of “humanitarian justification of intervention”. In the policy soup,
humanitarian aid is more regularly coupled with military engagement. This paper
will analyze this phenomenon as well.

            Youssef Sawani (2014) is a professor
of International Relations in Tripoli, Libya and offers this paper a unique
view not held by any other author here. Sawani taught, and still teaches, in
Libya during the US-led effort to eliminate the Gadhafi regime. This
perspective will compliment that of other articles that delve into the US’
rationale for shifting its policy from strong condemnation to intervention.
While Sawani has no kind words to say regarding Gadhafi, he asserts that the
United States’ efforts directly created the failed state that is Libya, today.
He asserts that US interests in the region disrupted the otherwise peaceful
efforts to remove Libya’s dictator from power. His work relates to policy
entrepreneurship and helps explain why the Obama Administration chose
intervention from the policy soup. 
Another self-titled “cosmopolitan of the Middle Eastern politics, Andreas
Krieg (2016) focuses on civil-military relations, surrogate warfare, and
security sector reform in the Middle East. This article will provide insights
to the “Policy Stream” in that it proposes several alternatives to Obama-era
interventionist policies and discusses why the Obama Administration chose the
route that it did. In essence, the Obama Administration is linked with
externalities such as humanitarian aid and regional balancing in addition to
the stated crises that were occurring in Libya at the time. Krieg’s work will
work nicely with other articles that discuss Obama-era politics. Alan Kuperman’s
(2015) article has a unique place in this paper in that it gives an honest
review of the policy steps taken, leading up to the United States’ engagement
in Libya. Kuperman discusses several key policy actors and the roles that they
all play and brings up well-thought out policy ideas brought up by the
opposition in the US Government. Kuperman focuses on ethnic conflict, military
intervention, and nuclear nonproliferation in his research and is an expert in
his field. He, along with other authors cited in this bibliography, criticize
the growing relationship between humanitarian aid and military engagement.
Kuperman’s arguments work will within the multiple streams framework and his
ideas will fall under all three streams.

Analytical Framework

Problem Stream

            In the political arena, there are
unfortunately no objective processes or procedures to determine which problems
elicit attention from lawmakers, or even if a perceived problem is in facts a
problem government should be solving at all. Ultimately, “the problem stream is
filled with perceptions of problems that are seen as “public” in the sense that
government action is needed to resolve them” (Beland, 2016). In reality, a very
small fraction all problems faced by the public ever really receive enough
attention by the government to result in a policy output. It goes without being
said that for a problem to even gain any attention at all is a feat of
legislating process. Far too often, problems receive a small amount of
attention but lawmakers are unable to act fast enough to capitalize on this
fleeting moment. More often than not, significant policy outputs are the legal
responses to dramatic and newsworthy events that public is well-aware about
(Beland, 2016). These focusing events captivate the public, who subsequently
demand that action be taken immediately to remedy the newly framed problem.
Typically, problems gain attention by how they are framed and presented, a subjective
approach, rather than how they might be in actuality, an objective one.
Focusing events, contrary to what one might thing, have no real power in
framing problems themselves. They are simply events that occur. The true power
of focusing events lies in the hands of policy entrepreneurs who present this
particular focusing event as a symptom of a particular problem. Different
policy entrepreneurs may present focusing events in different ways to sell to
different policy solutions. As a hypothetical example, say an economic market
is experiencing an extreme recession, edging closer to collapse. Economic
liberalists claim that economies run smoothly when they are allowed to operate
free of regulation, citing Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand”. Therefore, this market
crash is a result of too much intervention; businesses couldn’t do what needed
to be done to stay afloat due to too much regulation. Keynesian economists
assert that markets need government regulation to reduce monopolies and
predatory practices committed by big businesses, therefore, this crash could
have been prevented if government had intervened sooner. Both types of
economists are policy entrepreneurs, who frame the focusing event (a market
crash) in a certain way to couple the problem stream and the policy stream
together in order to achieve their desired policy output (less regulation
versus more regulation).

Policy Stream

            Imagining a dumpster behind a large
office park, one can imagine the wide array of garbage that fills the dumpster
and overflows onto the street. There are shredded office papers, fast-food
waste, gunk from the bathrooms, and so much more… no piece of garbage is
exactly like the other. Some pieces may be similar, but no two pieces are
exactly alike. And this accumulation of garbage didn’t just happen overnight.
It has taken time for this vast accumulation of trash to pile up. Ultimately,
once the trash is picked up, it is subsequently sorted into appropriate piles
and sent off to either the landfill or to be recycled and reused. Despite this
crass parallel, such as it is with trash outside an office park as it is with
policy solutions for particular problems facing the public. For every problem
in government, a policy solution exists to address it. It is worth noting that
government inaction of a problem is a policy in it of itself. The policy stream
of MSA, “is filled with the output of experts and analysts who examine problems
and propose solutions. In this stream, the myriad possibilities for policy
action and inaction are identified, assessed, and narrowed down to a subset of
ostensibly feasible options” (Beland, 2016). Due to the fast-moving nature of
policy windows, very few solutions are ever see themselves being made into
policy outputs. Kingdon describes this “policy soup” as an organic and evolving
mixture of solutions that are constantly being reconsidered and modified to
anticipate future problems. While analytically independent of each other, the
problem and policy streams interact with each other on a constant basis. Taking
the previously mentioned example of economic turmoil, each policy adopted to
stabilize the market takes affects it in some way in which the next set of
solutions takes into account the previous decisions and tries to anticipate the
future. At the end of the day thought, while policy entrepreneurs may
successfully couple the problem and the policy streams together, the politics
stream, which is unique to the American form of federalism and divided
government, will ultimately decide if a policy window will be acted upon. 

Politics Stream

            Unlike the problem and policy
stream, the politics stream of MSA is heavily dependent on the institutions in
which policy is formed and the channels by which it is executed. When
considering US domestic or foreign policy decisions, an analyst must consider
the basic structure of the government, written and unwritten norms of
operation, and as Beland puts it, “factors that influence the body politic,
such as swings in national mood, executive or legislative turnover, and interest
group advocacy campaigns” (2016). It is the policy makers that must have the
motivation to implement a particular policy and they must seize the opportunity
to deliver a propose output. Again, just as problems are a perceptions of
reality, so too are the politics and its important factors. Richard Nixon’s
famous “silent majority” was a perception of national mood and heavily
influenced his decision making and policy framing. More often than not in
American party politics, a change in congressional majority or presidential
political alignment is motivation enough to pass certain policies. President
Obama’s success in passing the ACA is a reflection of the political environment
of Washington, just as President Trumps Tax Reform Act. Interestingly enough,
public opinion did not drive these policy outputs. Lawmakers’ perception of
problems did, however. As Cairney points out, ambiguity and the competition for
attention drives the political process (2016). The fact that we as humans only
have so much limited time and mental capacity means that lawmakers must
consider policies which might be to ambiguous or ill-fitting of the problem.
The republic system which the US employs means that while representatives
should make well-educated and informed decisions on behalf of their
constituents, policy makers are ultimately concerned with being reelected.
Instead of trying to solve a problem in the best way possible for the most
amount of people, more lawmakers typically abandon comprehensive rationality
and linear-decision making. Limited time forces decisions to be made before
evidence and research confirms it is the best decision and before the public’s true
preferences are clear (Cairney, 2016).

Multiple Streams Analysis for the Libyan Intervention

Problem Stream

            It was clear from the beginning of
the intervention that the Obama Administration as well as the UN Security
Council sought to justify military action by citing humanitarian concerns. As
the President himself declared, ‘”We knew that if we waited one more day,
Benghazi… could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the
region and stained the conscience of the world”‘ (Kuperman, 2016). The problem,
as identified by the powers that be, was the violent crackdown on peaceful,
pro-democracy protesters that had already usurped power from governments in
Tunisian and Egypt. The problem, was the unflinching resistance of the Qaddafi
regime to reform and change. Eerily similar to George W. Bush’s “Mission
Accomplished” Speech on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, Barak Obama after
Qaddafi’s death declared the Libyan intervention a complete success, “without
putting a single U.S. service member on the ground” (Kuperman, 2016). However,
this perceived outcome was, of course, ill-prescribed, as Libya rapidly
devolved into a failed state, becoming a safe haven for violent extremists and
religions radicals alike. The problem in Libya was misrepresented to advance US
interests in the region and the people of Libya are paying the price. In fact,
Kuperman goes on to note that peaceful protestors were not being targeted at
all. Had the US and other allied nations abstained from intervening violently,
Qadaffi’s chosen successor, “relatively-liberal, western educated son Saif
al-Islam”, might have made significant progress towards reform (2016). While
Qadaffi’s regime had been relatively cooperative with the West in combating
terrorism in the region during the past decade, the regime gained the “problem
stream” logo as far back as 1988, when Libyan extremists blew up Pan Am flight
103 over Scotland, killing 270 civilians. The following year, the United
Nations Security Council imposed heavy sanctions on Libya on the heels of a
similar bombing of a French civilian airliner, killing 170 civilians (Buckley,
2013). Despite Qaddafi’s regime accepting responsibility for the bombings in
2003 and subsequent reacceptance into the international community, the US kept
its sanctions on the North African state citing its, “rejection of democratic
norms and standards, its irresponsible behavior in Africa, its history of
involvement in terrorism and- most importantly- its pursuit of weapons of mass
destruction and their means of delivery” (Buckley, 2012). The developments in
2003 triggered an uneasy relationship between the US and Libya, and carried on
until 2011. Policy entrepreneurs under the Obama Administration capitalized on
the Arab Spring protests, a focusing event, and framed them in such a way to
advance their own interests in the region. The administration was successful in
coupling the Qaddafi regime (problem) with bilateral military intervention

Policy Stream

            Leading up to the Obama
Administration’s decision to intervene militarily, the policy soup was brimming
with possible strategies ranging from full-scale, Bush-era regime change, to acting
diplomatically, to simply doing nothing. Yet, despite all the possible
alternatives, bilateral selective engagement was chosen to be the best one.
President Obama, an ostensible liberalist (in terms of IR paradigms) decided
that the most prudent course of action was a neorealist campaign. On the
surface, it appears that there is a divide between the politics of the
administration and the policies chosen, however Youssef Sawani helps to clarify
this apparent disconnect. Sawani asserts that the Obama administration felt
justified in intervention thanks to their reliance on the UN policy of
Responsibility to Protect (R2P). “The US intervention was a realist move that
unleashed forces and dynamics that have resulted in an ongoing political and
military struggle”, which was justified by the liberalist policies dictated by
the United Nations and bilateral action. The violence was the chosen policy of
the Obama administration, it is worth noting that it differs significantly from
the violence chosen by prior administrations. George W. Bush’s administration
decided that unilateral military intervention was the best move to make in Iraq
in 2003, when the seeds of upheaval were being sown in Libya. While the
strategies were different in both cases, Sawani asserts that the policy of
primacy remained the core theme of both the Bush and Obama Doctrines. While the
US advanced its interests in the region, “Obama framed his actions and policy
in Libya so as to not to go to a war unilaterally but rather in concert with
the rest of the world. Such an approach was vital in the US effort to eradicate
the public image of post-911 US unilateralism” (Sawani, 2014). Heavily
influenced by, “liberal interventionists like Ambassador Rice, Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton, and NSC aides Samantha Power and Michael McFaul”,
President Obama chose selective engagement over all other, possibly more
far-sighted routes of action (Sawani), 2014). Thus, as Andreas Krieg puts it,
the main pillar of the policies which Obama chose to enact relied on
burden-sharing (2016). Tactically, the Obama Administration preferred polices
which relied heavily on drone strikes and other stand-off weapons as well as
small Special Operations teams to surgically eliminate a threat.

Politics Stream

in line with the international community was of course the most sensible thing
to do for the Obama Administration, considering the unilateral approaches to
foreign policy that the prior Administration decided to follow. In doing so,
the Obama administration’s decisions relied on overtures in the international
community, the United Nations, NATO, as well as typical domestic factors. International
and domestic laws, however, are in a sense hierarchical, as Amos Guiora puts
it, “Precisely because international law does not articulate either normative or
architectural  standards  as 
to  when  international 
humanitarian  intervention is
justified, national leaders arguably have a responsibility to act” (2012). A
better way of phrasing that would be, due to the lack of enforcement of
international law, the politics streams of policy outputs heavily favor
domestic factors. It just so happened that in the case of Libya, liberal
interventionists such as Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice policy choices aligned
with international norms when dealing with humanitarian crises. In a ten to
five vote from the United Nations Security Council, the international community
signaled their willingness to use force in the hopes of halting government
violence against the people of Libya (Guiora, 2012). This was a win for policy
entrepreneurs in the Administration and a window of opportunity opened for a
policy output to be realized. 

Synthesis and

            Ultimately, using Multiple Streams
Analysis, the case of Libyan intervention has been presented in such a way that
makes clear the over and undertones which drove this specific policy output. The
Arab Spring, a highly publicized and popularly supported democratic movement
erupted throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa. This focusing event was
framed by policy entrepreneurs in the Obama Administration and the United
Nations and the problem was clearly presented to be the violent and brutal
Qadaffi regime. The latter had been an antagonist in international affairs for
some time and the peaceful protests against the regime and the subsequent
crackdown on them allowed international actors to engage. The Obama
Administration also successfully framed its liberal selective engagement policy
in Libya as a positive effort that minimized the danger to American servicemen
and maximized the United States’ utility in the region. While brief, the geopolitical
environment opened a window for NATO forces to act and over the course of
thirteen days, allied forces effectively dismantled a sovereign state. Overall,
the Libyan intervention is a prime example of how Multiple Streams Analysis can
be used as a framework to clearly identify the processes by which a policy
output comes to fruition. 

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