There is a widespread assumption that, given the imminent threat of mass atrocities against the Libyan civilians – especially in Benghazi – and in the absence of non-military alternatives, military action against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi was a justified and necessary response. This paper challenges this widespread assumption. It argues that on the eve of NATO-led military intervention, there was no ‘clear evidence’ to suggest that the Libyan regime was on the verge of committing mass atrocities against civilians. This research also documents the range of political and diplomatic options open to the international community to engage with Gaddafi, all of which were sidetracked in favour of military action. Despite the brutality of Gaddafi’s rule, military intervention in Libya did not meet the Responsibility to Protect’s (R2P) ‘just cause’ and ‘last resort’ criteria. Far from being a successful application of R2P’s most coercive pillar, the Libyan case was a manifest misapplication of R2P’s military component. An objective analysis of the Libyan crisis during February and March 2011 should have prevented the use of military force.