The Cauldron

NATO’s Campaign in Libya

Rob Weighill


Florence Gaub

Attacking conventional wisdom, Weighill and Gaub argue that NATO’s intervention in Libya was soundly conceived and executed.

Bibliographic Details
The Cauldron Hardback
September 2018£40.00

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In March 2011, NATO launched a mission hitherto entirely unthinkable: to protect civilians against Libya’s ferocious regime, solely from the air. NATO had never operated in North Africa, or without troops on the ground; it also had never had to move as quickly as it did that spring. It took seven months, 25,000 air sorties, 7,000 combat strike missions, 3,100 maritime hailings and nearly 400 boardings for Tripoli to fall.

This book tells for the first time the whole story of this international drama, spanning the hallways of the United Nations in New York, NATO Headquarters in Brussels and, crucially, the two operational epicentres: the Libyan battlefield, and Joint Force Command Naples, which was in charge of the mission.

Weighill and Gaub offer a comprehensive exploration of both the war’s progression and the many challenges NATO faced, from its extremely rapid planning and limited understanding of Libya and its forces, to training shortfalls and the absence of post-conflict planning. Theirs is a long-awaited account of the Libyan war: one that truly considers all the actors involved.


Rob Weighill is a retired major-general and independent consultant operating in strategic risk, resilience and defence. He spent five years at NATO’s multinational headquarters in Naples, led the planning of NATO’s Libyan intervention and directed operations from Joint Force Command.

Florence Gaub is Deputy Director at the EU Institute for Security Studies; previously, she was employed at NATO Defence College. Her first book for Hurst, Guardians of the Arab State: When Militaries Intervene in Politics, from Iraq to Mauritania, was published by Hurst in March 2017.


‘A gripping account of the military intervention which exposes how, despite NATO’s prompting, the international community failed to plan, build consensus for and deliver a post-conflict, multi-agency nation-building strategy, resulting in a disastrous aftermath.’ — Lord Peter Hain former UK Foreign Office Minister

‘An excellent account of how to win every fight and lose the war — of how NATO rose to the occasion and protected the people, but the political action to fill the void left by the assault was disastrously absent. Recommended for all who wish to understand this all too modern phenomena.’ — General Sir Rupert Smith KCB DSO OBE QGM

‘A meticulously researched, compelling and multi-layered account of NATO’s campaign against Gaddafi. While acknowledging its military effectiveness Weighill and Gaub also explain why “a model intervention” turned into something else for which all the main actors including the Libyan people must shoulder the blame.’ — Christopher Coker, Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and author of The Improbable War: China, the United States and the Logic of Great Power Conflict

‘This is a well-researched volume, shedding light on the political events in the background of Libya’s Revolution as well as on NATO’s decisive role in a war it was not prepared for — and the mistakes made in the immediate aftermath. A must-read for everyone trying to understand today’s Libya.’ — Wolfgang Pusztai, Security & Policy Analyst, Austrian Defense Attaché to Libya 2007-2012, National Council on US–Libya Relations and Director, Perim Associates

‘A fascinating account of the war in Libya, The Cauldron offers a complex analysis of local and regional history and politics, and the policies of Responsibility to Protect. Weighill and Gaub combine policy experience and detailed academic research to great effect in critiquing NATO’s campaign. The consequences of the Libyan war continue to be felt in the Mediterranean, in Syria and in Russian foreign policy towards the West, making this essential reading.’ — Andrew Monaghan, Oxford Changing Character of War Centre, Pembroke College, and author of Power in Modern Russia