Revisiting the remoteness of remote warfare: US military intervention in Libya during Obama’s presidency

Tom Watts, Rubrick Biegon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper aims to develop the study of remote warfare’s constitutive “remoteness.” It proposes a novel definition of remoteness as the degree of the American public’s socio-psychological detachment from the realities of political violence fought at a physical distance from the continental United States, as mediated through spectatorship of the use of military force. The remoteness of remote warfare has physical, psychological, and social properties. We argue that it exists on a continuum subject to change over time and should not be approached as a fixed condition measured solely by the physical distance separating combatants involved in armed fighting or as the use of various weapons technologies. The numerous dynamics associated with the remoteness of remote warfare are illustrated through an examination of American military intervention in Libya during Obama’s presidency. From the height of the 2011 NATO intervention in the country onwards, US military operations in Libya became more “remote” for the American public. Whilst other contextual factors contributed toward this outcome, we argue that the diminished spectacle surrounding the 2016 Operation Odyssey Lightning helps explain the American public’s increasing remoteness from military intervention in Libya.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)508-527
Number of pages20
JournalDefence Studies
Issue number4
Early online date10 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Nov 2021


  • Remote warfare
  • Obama
  • Libya
  • Remoteness

Cite this