The Lesson Of Libya
October 23, 2011 9 Comments
Conservative hawks and anti-Obama commentators who feel ambivalent about the Libya outcome (such as myself) need to ask themselves a question:
All-in, which experience was better for the U.S.: Libya, or Iraq?
The answer seems pretty obvious to me.
In terms of importance end outcomes, they are roughly the same: In each case the main reason to support the warfare – with apologies to ‘neocons’ – was that the regime was a declared enemy of the U.S. who had shed U.S. blood in the past. In each case, the autocrat was ousted and lynched. In each case, the regime was atomized and replaced by a new one of dubious allegiance, competence, and corruption, under which tribal vendettas and a fundamental lack of security & rule of law are likely to be the norm. And now in each case, the average American no longer knows the name of the ‘leader’ of either country, nor (thankfully!) has any reason to for the foreseeable future. Both endeavors left a taint of suspect motives and legality on the part of those already inclined to doubt such things. And now, we hope, life goes on (for us).
The differences seem to boil down to various costs: Iraq took a lot longer, cost a lot more, and got tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers killed in the process. This is something of an unfair comparison (after all, unlike Iraq, the Libya ouster started with an actual uprising and evidently it was sufficient for us to just help it by bombing from the air), but leaving that aside, if we could replay Iraq but only making it more Libya-like, I know I’d take that deal in a heartbeat.
What is the lesson? That future Presidents should follow the lead of President Obama in their geopolitical strategy and warfare? That seems like a strange, bitter pill to swallow, almost unbelievable. But if that’s not the lesson of Libya, I don’t know what is, so I welcome being convinced otherwise.