As news pours in about the freedom-seeking rebels closing in on Tripoli a mere five months after the attack on Benghazi, I was thinking of the momentous changes that we have helped with in the Arab world and what a different model we have used than the one in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are on the verge of overthrowing a tyrant in Libya – a tyrant every bit as evil as Saddam was. Muammer Khaddafi’s 42 year reign of terror is coming to an end. Unlike Iraq this war was fought exactly right. Here are some numbers to ponder:
Iraq War 4500
Afghanistan War 1600
Libyan War 0
Cost to the U.S. (so far)
Iraq War $800 billion
Afghanistan War $450 billion
Libyan War $1 billion
What a difference a war of liberation fought right makes!
Make no mistake – the Libyan rebels and NATO could not have done it without American help. Obama, after taking his time building a consensus with our European allies and with the Arab League, decided to go to war but with America in the back seat to NATO who would have operational responsibility. This was March 18, 2011. The no-fly zone was established entirely by American air power – no other country has the capability. The execution of the support operations involved extensive American military power including drones and intelligence. The only thing missing, in typical Obama fashion was the jingoistic talk and American ground troops.
Our power was projected quietly, discreetly and effectively. Only five months later the tyrannical Libyan dictator is effectively ousted. This is now a victory that belongs to the Libyan rebels. It is not tainted, as the Iraq war is, as being an American war for oil or an American occupation of a Muslim land.
Good leadership and execution! Of course the Republicans, McCain and Lindsay Graham, while touting the ouster of Khaddafi still had this to say:
We regret that this success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our airpower.
Amazing! The Libyan freedom fighters won in 5 months! Our airpower was there when needed. The victory had the necessary empowerment of the Libyan people and the Arab street. Civilian casualties were minimal and the siege and massacre of Benghazi was prevented. It was perfect! Can’t these ideologues show some grace?
Any chance that the Republicans will credit Obama with saving $1 trillion in government spending (over the next 10 years, the Congress debt debate time frame) by not getting embroiled in Libya Iraq style?
Well said Ashok
Should you not also include Egyptian and Tunisian wars? What conclusion can we draw if we include them?
What do we know of people who are going to come to power in Libya? Are we too early in claiming victory?
My view is that our broader interest is served by being a catalyst in serving the overthrow of tyrants such as Khaddafi, Mubarak etc. when the people themselves are taking the lead and clamoring for freedom. It can’t be our war, owned by us and waged with our blueprints or even primarily for our interests, such as oil (although our interests are always there). In that context we are not claiming victory in Libya – it isn’t our war. And we have to trust the people and their maturity in selecting the follow-on government structure and power.
When the overthrow of a dictator is clearly right, as in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and even Syria we can and should build International consensus to make sure it’s not just our idea of what is right. Being a catalyst for good, instead of forcing it upon others costs less and works better. In Syria or Tibet we cannot force the overthrow of the occupying regimes. There are limits to our military power and our finances. But we can still help change effectively by amplifying the freedom forces that have the primary interest in ousting tyranny.
Ashok, you are missing my point. There are better ways than military intervention to achieve democracy in other countries or to throw out dictators. Egypt and Tunisia are good examples. In long term, militarily intervention achieves no better results than non-military support. Political benefits for non-military intervention are immense and obvious for both domestic and international opinions.
I’m making the same point as you are. We should use better methods than military intervention. There is really no difference between Egypt/Tunisia and Libya in the way we intervened. In each case in was an indigenous rebellion against a tyrannical dictator. In Libya we had to help the rebels a little more overtly because Khaddafi was willing to slaughter them and would surely have done so in Benghazi. We did it in a very limited way and only when the rebels asked us — it was their war and their victory not ours. We were a “catalyst” for change not a bludgeon.
Absolutely RIGHT ON Ashok! You nailed it and yet, as you say, I have republican friends that still believe either that the US should not have assisted at all or as you point out, somehow President Obama did it wrong…
We all may have seen the movie: Patton…it opens with general George S. Patton’s famous statement: “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.
He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”
Israel followed it right in Iraq war while US did the opposite. but US got smarter in Libya after counting 1,600 going 4,500…raj singh
Raj, Maybe the U.S. got a smarter President…..