Foreign Policy

"Victory" in Libya

Lessons from Obama's war


For a president blanketed in gloom, the rebel victory in Libya comes as a welcome ray of sunshine. It took a lot longer than expected, but Barack Obama managed to help bring about the downfall of Moammar Gadhafi. Having avoided the danger of defeat, he now has to worry only about something equally scary: the perils of victory.

The triumph, whole or partial, does not exactly vindicate his decision to enter the fight. It was a needless war that put Americans in harm's way, cost nearly a billion dollars, and exposed Libya to the possibility of disastrous turmoil in the aftermath.

Not only that, but it could still go tragically awry. When we intervened in Libya, we did so without much knowledge or understanding of the society. For all we know, the country could fall into the hands of our enemies.

As in Iraq, we took it upon ourselves to begin the transformation of another country with barely a clue where it might lead. In some ways, this enterprise resembles the war that Obama gained stature by opposing: George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq.

Each was a war of choice, not a response to attack. Just as Bush raised the imaginary specter of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, Obama inflated the dubious claim that we had to prevent Gadhafi from carrying out genocide.

By some measures, Obama's war was less excusable. In going after Saddam, Bush at least could claim to be defusing an ongoing threat to our allies, in a vital region. But Gadhafi had stopped his sponsorship of terrorism, abandoned his nuclear quest, and generally tried to become a respectable world citizen.

That raises a point Obama may not want to stress. If you're a merciless despot, pondering the fate of your colleagues, there is only one conclusion to draw: Get nukes, and get them now.

Saddam, the Taliban, and Gadhafi, none of whom had doomsday weapons, have all been evicted by foreign military forces. North Korea's Kim Jong-il, meanwhile, sleeps soundly in the bosom of his atomic arsenal. You think President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran can't add two and two?

Obama also managed the Herculean feat of outdoing Bush in his expansion of executive power. Before invading Iraq, Bush got Congress to approve a joint resolution of support. Before attacking Libya, Obama gave Congress the back of his hand.

Nor did he change his approach later. He took the outlandish position that he didn't need to abide by the War Powers Resolution—which says that within 60 days of dispatching American forces, the president must get congressional authorization or bring them home.

Obama could have easily gotten Congress to consent, but he said he didn't have to, because our forces were not taking part in "hostilities." Never mind those drones launching missiles against Libya targets. His own attorney general and other administration lawyers told Obama the war was illegal. He didn't care.

But if Obama was more reckless than Bush about the law, he was more prudent about the mission. The saving grace of this war was minimalism: The United States performed only a supporting role, took no casualties, and categorically ruled out ground troops. Obama put the heaviest burden on our allies, and they accepted it.

His approach brings to mind the 1999 Kosovo war, when President Bill Clinton spent 11 weeks bombing Serbia before finally prevailing. It was low-risk, brie,f and successful. As in Libya, had we failed, we could have bailed out with no major damage.

Contrast that with Iraq, which all along held out the cruel prospect of chaos, civil war, endless occupation and ruinous expense—which is why President George H.W. Bush chose not to march to Baghdad in the first Iraq war.

Most Americans, it's safe to assume, have no regrets about the Libya war. When it comes to Iraq, they are more apt to echo the country singer Toby Keith's musical lament: "I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then."

As it is, American law has been trampled, large sums of money have been torched, and our habit of going to war at a moment's notice has been reinforced. But at least we won't have troops fighting Libya for years to come. Obama didn't avoid all the bad choices available to him there. Just the worst one.


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  1. …but Barack Obama managed to help bring about the downfall of Moammar Gadhafi.

    That madman ain’t gone yet. And, more to the point, neither is Gadhafi.

    It was low-risk, brie,f and successful.

    Now that’s a serial comma.

  2. Whitbred libertarian/liberal/neocon poodles are the reason this nation goes to war so consistently. Hyper-domesticated people are hyper-dependent and hyper-grasping and hyper-narcissistic.

    Since the Holocene began, we have bred some very domesticated dogs?how far is a wild gray wolf from a miniature poodle show dog? The most domesticated breeds are also the most prone to many different kinds of diseases. They are the most frail; the most sickly; the least capable of doing anything for themselves. They are bred for dependence.

    In nearly all species of domestic mammals, in which it has been measured, it has been found that the brain is smaller in size relative to the size of the body than it is in the wild progenitor.

    Wolves & Dogs
    by Jason Godesky | 13 November 2006

    sevo, old mexican, your daddy’s photograph is the third picture down

    1. What kind of phone do you use, rather?

      1. Even Lew Rockwell is going Paleo Primitive this morning.

        What About Dairy and Other Primal Diet Questions:
        Robb Wolf, original paleoguy, supplies the answers.

        If White Injun’s Paleo Points are correct about food, health, paleo diet, and diseases of civilization, maybe he is right about more.

        But I do hate being seen as a poodle by that big dog.

    2. You know your a Rezzer when….

      You know your native when you can relate to the following…….

      28. When somebody falls down, you laugh first, then ask if they’re okay.
      27. You know people by their nicknames, and forget their “real” names.
      26. By the age of 13 your an expert at driving where as other children off rez at the age of 15 are learning how to back out of a 12 foot drive way.
      25. When listening to the scanner you can usually look out your window to see the action. yeee!!!
      24. There is at least one car parked in your yard, missing parts, maybe a door, probably sitting on blocks… Yah your gonna get her running one of these days, damn that’s a good car!!
      23. Most injuries can be fixed at home, going to the clinic is torture in its self.
      22. You at some point have cried while watching Smoke Signals, or Pow-wow Highway.
      21. Most of the knowlege you’ve gained about the world abroad comes from the discovery channel.
      20. Your trusted pup is a fine heinz 57 mix who has never seen a liesh, leash.
      19. Someone near your home if not you has their house painted in some type of easter egg coloring.
      18. The local mechanic’s garage is his yard.
      17. Your trained in the fine art of wiring vehicles, and opening door locks.
      16. An essential thing to have in your house is duct tape, or wd40, they can fix anything.
      15. Some of the most heated debates is which one of your aunties makes the best fry bread.
      14. A true delicasy is dry meat soup, and some fry bread.
      13. The Chief gives the day off during certain occasions, such as pow-wows, and when the h.s. basketball team makes it to state, rather than having to deal with all the leaves, sick, emergency, administration, yep.
      12. You have never been to a salon to have your hair cut, either the bathroom or the back porch.
      11. Such a small community, your on a first name basis with the entire police force.
      10. You have your own dialect and can usually tell what rez another native is from by their speech and features.
      9. One of the main words in your vocabulary is “annet”.
      8. Out of all the cheeses you’ve sampled there is only one that you really like, heh, heh, you know what i’m talkin about, and it’s only available on yep, “the rez”.
      7. You point with your chin, or your lips, instead of your hands.
      6. Your car has at one point in time been held together by some type of adhesive, duct tape, crazy glue, some wire, or bubble yum, aye don’t laugh I tried it, it works.
      5. When you go to town for groceries, half the rez is in town too.
      4. You have tried to use one of the following excuses for a hickey, it’s a rug burn, an allergic reaction, you fell, you were pinched, heh, heh, don’t bother they never work.
      3. Your third cousin is just as close to you as one of your brothers or sisters.
      2. You in a room with three other natives can pin point anyone else in the near by area with the vaguest of details. Finally the number one sign that you are a true native is,
      1. No meal is complete with out bread, whether it be Italian, french, chinese, still needs bread.

      1. I stopped reading at #26. Nothing personal.

        1. I made it to #22. I’m not proud of that.

          1. You must be a redneck. You know you’re a redneck when…

            Never mind.

    3. And yet domesticated dogs are doing better than any wolf.

    4. It’s a good hypothesis, but proven to be false by recent statistical studies in psychology and craniometry. People who until recently didn’t even know what civilization is (African Blacks) have smaller brain sizes than more domesticated Whites (and even more docile Asians, who have the largest brain sizes of the major human races).

      Also, the more domesticated human races are less predisposed to violence; Asians more than Whites, and Whites more than Blacks. This comes in handy if you want to create free markets. They can’t exist as long as some people randomly rape others and steal or destroy all of their accumulated capital without warning.

  3. Mission Accomplished!!

    And it’s Thursday.

    1. He does have a point about Libertarian whitbred poodles. White Indian is too optimistic about human capabilities. Those capabilities have been bred out of many, perhaps most, people.

      Poodles who can’t survive in the woods surely don’t want to live there. They’d rather die than snag their foo foo tails picking raspberries.

      Myself, I’d rather die than lose my top hat and money.

      But you can’t get rid of us poodles either. As the chief poodle once said, “The American Way of Life is Non-Negotiable.”

      I need all the fake and artificial in our faux lifestyle, and I don’t mind if a few people have to die in the Congo, I damn well want that coltan for my cellphone.

  4. Obama could have easily gotten Congress to consent, but he said he didn’t have to, because our forces were not taking part in “hostilities.”

    Yes. I believe the term was ‘unpleasantries’.

  5. What victory?? Like the capturing of his son(s)…oops that didn’t work out to well or the fact that Gadhafi is still around (especially on TV).

    1. It is a victory because we said it is. So there!

      1. The US military crusade for freedom only applies in places that have sufficiently large reserves of fossil fuels situated therein.

        Like, say, Libya.

        Suddenly, the orchestrated leftist cries of “NO BLOOD FOR OIL!,” “THE WORLD CAN’T WAIT!” and “NOT IN OUR NAME!” ring even more hollowly than they typically did in the past, don’t they…?


          1. “Wait. You mean you actually thought we were serious about all of that –?”

            1. I was only in it for the pussy, myself.

              1. “PRESENT!”

                1. Three-way? Hmmmmm? Look, just think about it.

                  1. Care to spice things up a bit?

                    1. * raaaaalllpppphhhhh *

        2. Have you seen gas prices lately? Or even better have you seen any oil actually come out of Iraq or Afghanistan?

    2. And nobody knows who will end up leading Libya or whether the rebels in the field will follow this leadership.

      I keep hearing the press talk about cheering crowds in Tripoli in support of the rebels but the pictures I see seem to show close ups of some rebels with a few locals and most of the people seem to be hiding inside. I wonder how much support the rebels have and which faction of the rebels has support in each locality. There still could be more civil war with the rebel factions fighting it out for power.

    3. We’ve already hung the ‘Mission Accomplished’ sign. Fuck if I’m taking it down until we have a party. You are so racist you wont let us have one little party.

    4. Victory in this case is simple. Just add ~40,000 troops, occupy for ~10 years, then issue press statement that “we’ve won”.

  6. Fuck. This is just beginning. OF COURSE, there going to have to be “Peace Keepers”. The UK has already acknowledged that.

    SO, who is next on the list? Venezuela or Syria? Why Venezuela, you might ask? Here’s as good a reason as any:…..l-starting

    1. Yay. You “won.”

  7. Toby Keith is a douche!

    1. Take that back!

  8. Maybe we can leave Libya just as quickly as we left Germany after WWII. I mean, we stopped having permanent military bases in Germany a long time ago. Right?

    1. Libya doesn’t seem like as awesome a place to have a drink as Germany is, so…

      1. ** rising intonation **

        What about the thousand miles of pristine Mediterranean coastline?

        1. And some of the best preserved Roman ruins in the world.


    2. except that US ground forces are NOT in libya. jeesch

      1. Facts, schmacts.

      2. “except that US ground forces are NOT in libya. jeesch”

        And I bet you think the USA has a stable currency too. I made the mistake of joining the Air Force and “served” in the military. I know damned well that before there are any air strikes there are ground forces that go in first. They might be Marines, they might be Secret Squirrels, they might be special forces. But I know damned well there are ground troops there from some branch or other.

        1. those are air strike control teams which are small units. germany was hundreds of thousands of combat troops einstein.

          1. Yes, and it has been how long since the end of World War II?

          2. I should also remind you about the “advisers” that went into Vietnam before we were officially involved there. It helps if you study history.

            1. It helps if you don’t comment while retarded.

              1. Wow, now I am convinced. You have completely changed my mind.

              2. I often wonder how old O2 and EpiWartFree are. Middle school? 7th grade perhaps?

                1. Don’t talk to me. It’s Thursday.

      3. except that US ground forces are NOT in libya.

        Anyone who believes that is a fool. I have no doubt that we have had special ops sorts, and maybe even more mundane USAF liaison types, on the ground for awhile now.

    3. Or like Kosovo, I believe were still there too and Clinton said we’d only be there a year.

    4. Maybe we can just ask for our old base back?

  9. But at least we won’t have troops fighting Libya for years to come.


  10. Thursdaythursdaythursdaythursday…

    1. It’s the same with white people. They cleared the forest, they dug up the land, and they gave us the flu. But they also brought power tools and penicillin and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

      1. And don’t forget teh pron. The sweet, delicious, on-demand pron.

        1. Hey, a girl’s gotta make a living.

          1. If we do not ‘come to our senses’ soon, we will have permanently forfeited the chance of constructing any meaningful alternatives to the pseudo-existence which passes for life in our current Civilization of the Image.” ~David Howes

            source: Running on Emptiness
            The Failure of Symbolic Thought
            John Zerzan

            1. Are you saying pron is a pseudo-existence of civilization? No woman is as good as my soft, civilized hand. Not that I could get a woman, being a hyper-symbolic domesticated poodle fearful of the hairy wilderness in which my savage (people of the woods) evolved.

              I need my existence all smooth and child like. That’s why I pay taxes, so we can get more oil from Libya to fuel my energy intensive high-maintenance poodle pseudolife.

              1. Fear of Hair.

                Fear of Wilderness.

                Same symptom.

            2. *Looks up from iPad. White earbuds firmly in place.*


              1. The whole hairless fetish is an exacerbation of fear of trees (savages are people of the trees and fear of wilderness.

                The endgame of civilization is total death of everything beautiful with Mother Evolution’s Tree of Life.

                ? First we cut down the trees.
                ? Then we cut down the hair.
                ? Then we cut down humans themselves into singularity machine downloads, because the human body itself is just so gross.

                How did we survive without razors, back in those nasty, brutish, and hairy days? ~Shaved Poodle Wankers

                1. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn about natural women.

        2. Who needs pron, anyway?

          1. Me! Me! Me!

            I need to watch things die
            from a good safe distance
            Vicariously, I
            live while the whole world dies.

            Vicarious | Tool

      2. There BETTER not be any damn forests left!

    2. “Can’t trust that day ….”

  11. Let’s hope the Libyan rebels don’t go all Hutu on the Ghadafi loyalists. Could get real ugly…

    1. “Imo get Medieval on yo ass….”

  12. Some of these “rebels” are busy doing a victory lap around Europe, trying to get Libya’s foreign assets unfrozen. The UK and Italy have already obliged to the tune of approximately $800 billion. Still no detailed expose from the corporate press on exactly who the new bosses are in Libya and how they will differ from the old bosses, if they do at all.

    And there are a few bearded religious men, more disciplined than the others, who appear intent on fighting at the dangerous tip of the advancing lines. It seems unlikely, however, that they represent Al Qaeda. I saw prayers being held on the front line at Ras Lanuf, but most of the fighters did not attend. One zealous-looking fighter at Brega acknowledged that he was a jihadi?a veteran of the Iraq war?but said that he welcomed U.S. involvement in Libya, because Qaddafi was a kafir, an unbeliever.


    1. It seems unlikely, however, that they represent Al Qaeda.


      One zealous-looking fighter at Brega acknowledged that he was a jihadi?a veteran of the Iraq war?but said that he welcomed U.S. involvement in Libya, because Qaddafi was a kafir, an unbeliever.

      Which is a guarantee that he will love the US of A after GQKhuaddiy is gone.

  13. We don’t have troops there……yet. But the odds of some despot rising to powere there are pretty good. And one that will learn the lessons and grab some nukes to ensure they stay in power. And if it’s another hard line Islamist regime, we could end up with yet anothre Iran to concern ourselves with.

  14. This is the worst article ever. Everyone knows Bob Seger wrote the classic line, “wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” –Against the Wind, 1980

    I wish to cancel my subscription to this free online content.

    1. I’m glad someone else pointed that one out. Seger represent yo.

  15. See, this is why we need formal declarations of war. If things go awry, we shouldn’t have increased foreign policy problems or even terrorist threats because one guy decided it would be a good idea to bomb this particular country. Why not bomb Iran? North Korea? Greenland? Under the administration’s blatantly unconstitutional policy, Obama could unilaterally decide to do such things.

  16. The Washington Compost has a whiny column by E.J. Dionne to the effect that poor Obama isn’t getting proper plaudits for his glorious victory. The poor baby!

    I guess that will be the liberal meme for the day.

    1. Let’s think about that for a moment. Of course the United States can bomb, invade, or scare a country into submission. The disparity in power between us and any other country on the planet is so great that we could topple any government.

      That being the case, shouldn’t we have greater controls and limits on when we can go to war?

      Also, in this particular instance, since we had gotten Gaddafi to play ball with us and to voluntarily stop WMD research, how will this willingness to bomb him anyway affect our ability to negotiate a settlement with other nutcases without having to go to war?

      I hope Libya comes out of this with a liberal government, but I’ll be shocked if that’s the case.

      1. Also, in this particular instance, since we had gotten Gaddafi to play ball with us and to voluntarily stop WMD research, how will this willingness to bomb him anyway affect our ability to negotiate a settlement with other nutcases without having to go to war?

        Exactly. This is an object lesson to any country that has WMD: if you get rid of the WMD the U.S. government will kick you in the nuts.

      2. …since we had gotten Gaddafi to play ball with us and to voluntarily stop WMD research…

        And he agreed to stop supporting terrorism. Q’ddafi might be a first class dickhead, but bombing him was stupid beyond belief. Unless, of course, you like the idea of 1) 50 tin-pot dictators with atomic weapons programs, or 2) the US intervening always and everywhere, from now til the end of time, or 3) both 1 & 2.

  17. It’s funny how Democrats love going to war in meaningless countries like Lybia, Kosovo, and Somalia. Republicans are better, we liberated Grenada from Communism, Panama from a dictator, Iraq and Afghanistan from tyrants. Gaddafi wasn’t even that bad compared to other tyrants, his nation was taken off the terrorist list. Of course, our Nobel Peace Prize winner decided that it’s not nice for Gaddafi to defend his dictatorship from people who want to out them.

    I’ve been thinking, if the winners of beauty pageants are forced to return their crowns after getting in trouble, maybe our Marxist Mulatto should be forced to return his Nobel peace prize.

    1. O RLY?

  18. “…having avoided the danger of defeat, Obama now has to worry only about something equally scary: the perils of victory.”

    I don’t know whether this is simply false or some weird form of wishful thinking…

    Obama is less responsible for rebuilding Libya after Gaddafi than Bush Sr. was responsible for rebuilding Panama after Noriega.

    “It was a needless war that put Americans in harm’s way, cost nearly a billion dollars, and exposed Libya to the possibility of disastrous turmoil in the aftermath.”

    Where to begin?

    1) “Needless” and “optional” aren’t the same thing. There are thousands of people in Benghazi who would disagree with that “needless” assessment.

    2) “put Americans in harm’s way”

    Are you sure about that?!

    I think there were some Americans who might have been in danger because of a faulty jet, but wouldn’t that jet have put them in danger whether they were flying over Libya or flying drills over Nevada?

    It’s not clear to me that ANY Americans were ever in ANY danger of being harmed by the Libyan military–and isn’t that really the only danger that matters in this calculation?

    3) “…and exposed Libya to the possibility of disastrous turmoil in the aftermath”

    I’m not saying this is what you’re saying, but anybody who thinks oppressed people should avoid toppling their oppressive dictators–or that dictators are somehow a good solution to avoiding civil strife?

    Should stop calling themselves libertarian.

    You seem to be projecting Iraq onto Libya! …and they’re just not the same thing.

    One of the reasons I opposed Iraq was because it wasn’t a war that the Iraqi people chose for themselves–it was a war we imposed on the people of Iraq against their dictator whether the Iraqi people wanted it or not! …and how can freedom loving libertarians support inflicting a war–on a people who didn’t choose it?

    That description doesn’t resemble Libya in the least! The US did not choose to wage war against Gaddafi–the Libyan people chose to wage war against Qaddafi! We simply picked a side–after the Libyan people had risen up against Qaddafi.

    In other words, you seem to be projecting your choices on the Libya people–much the same way the Bush Administration decided to make choices for the people of Iraq. If the Libyan people chose rebellion–and to depose their own dictator–who are we as libertarians to override that choice for them…in the name of avoiding civil strife in the aftermath of the war?!


    I used to laugh at the Bush Administration’s supporters for making that mistake–maybe someday the Iraqi people will thank us for invading and occupying their country. …but how absurd is it to assume they wanted us to do that–on their behalf?

    We neither invaded nor occupied Libya–the Libyan people chose to overthrow their own dictator… Who are libertarians to question that choice the Libyans made for themselves–in the name of stability?!

    Congratulations! Your libertarian misread of this seems to have led you to make Gaddafi’s own argument for him–that’s Gaddafi’s own line! …Support me, or there could be some disastrous turmoil when I’m deposed!

    Tell me, is there any other situation in which libertarians should discourage oppressed people from toppling their own dictators–for fear that there will be turmoil in the dictator’s wake?

    Or was Gaddafi the only one?

  19. “…and exposed Libya to the possibility of disastrous turmoil in the aftermath”

    Wrong twice over.

    1) We didn’t expose Libya to that. The Libyan people exposed themselves to that risk when they chose to rebel.

    2) Any libertarian who suggests that keeping dictators around is somehow an appropriate solution to civil strife? Opens libertarianism up to mockery!

    Holy shit.

    1. Should we support every rebellion, then? This one wasn’t in our direct interest, either. If we start doing that, we’d better be prepared for a lot of warfare.

      1. I don’t want to change the direction of this thread, but suffice it to say, I think providing air support (as part of an international consortium with a UN mandate) was in our best interest…

        I’d rather we did it constitutionally, but within the context of a debate about whether we should have done what we did–constitutionally–I think doing what we did in Libya was in our best interest.

        I think it undid a lot of the damage we did to ourselves in Iraq–for a number of reasons.

        Al Qaeda used to argue that their form of armed struggle was the only viable means of opposing the vicious dictators that plague the Muslim and Arab worlds. And about right now, Al Qaeda’s feckless form of armed struggle looks about as useful and practical as Gaddafi himself.

        I remember when people used to wonder out loud about why the Arab and Muslim worlds didn’t have Ghandi or MLK style protest movement! Works way better than terrorism, don’t it?

        I also think this was a an excellent opportunity to change direction in terms of our foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa. Let’s face it–because of the Cold War–we supported vicious Muslim and Arab dictators against their own people, and we’ve done that for a long time.

        We did it in Egypt with Mubarak. We were even starting to warm up to Gaddafi again–and we’re still doing it in places like Saudi Arabia, which remains a vicious dictatorship that oppresses its own people.

        We built those relationships within the context of the Cold War–and we’ve been looking for ways to handle changing that ever since the Cold War ended. We still haven’t unwound those relationships, but I think this is the beginning of that. It provided a convenient, low cost inflection point.

        We needed to get on the right side of history. This was a low cost opportunity to do that. Iraq did WAY more damage than good to our cause–and it cost us 35,000 American casualties and trillions of dollars!

        Libya did WAY more than Iraq to help the American cause with Muslim and Arab peoples–and it cost us NOTHING in American casualties. …and Suderman up top says it cost us $1 billion?

        What a freakin’ bargain!

        1. Oh, and you can add in avoiding the responsibility for Libya’s lingering problems political, economic, ethnic, and religious problems into that bargain!

          We’re not responsible for fixing that stuff–not just because Suderman says so.

          We did what we did under a UN mandate–if the Libyans want the world’s help? …in holding elections, etc? Then I think we should consider assisting them–as a minority partner–under the auspices of the UN. IF the Libyan people want us to. …and it’s constitutional.

          Having a UN mandate–something the Bush Administration didn’t bother to seek a second time in Iraq–means Libya’s political aftermath is the Libyan people’s problem and the UN’s problem.

          Not America’s.

          The other reason we’re not responsible for rebuilding and integrating Libya–politically, economically, culturally–is because we didn’t invade or occupy Libya, and we weren’t ultimately responsible for toppling Gaddafi.

          The Libyans were.

          That’s a huge difference between Iraq and Libya, and we need to stop pretending that they’re the same thing.

          Either one of those factors would have let us off the hook for rebuilding and reintegrating Libya.

          That’s what the Powell Doctrine is all about! We had all of these things nailed down before we offered air support. We had our exit strategy nailed down by 1) getting the UN mandate beforehand and 2) not sending in any ground troops to begin with.

          Just because Bush the Lesser stupidly ignored the Powell Doctrine doesn’t mean there still isn’t a ton of wisdom there–meant to help us avoid seemingly eternal entanglements like we have in Iraq.

          Or that it doesn’t work.

        2. I think providing air support (as part of an international consortium with a UN mandate) was in our best interest

          How so? Qaddafi wasn’t a threat to us. We have no idea who will replace him, and I doubt that our leading from behind role in bombing Libya will get us much influence over the tribal squabbling to come.

          Just how are we better off for having done this?

          1. Having a UN mandate–something the Bush Administration didn’t bother to seek a second time in Iraq–means Libya’s political aftermath is the Libyan people’s problem and the UN’s problem.

            See, if what happens in Libya isn’t our problem, then how was bombing Libya in our best interests.

            I don’t think you can have it both ways. Either Libya matters to us, in which case what happens there after we help overthrow the rule is our problem, or it doesn’t matter to us, in which case we had no business bombing it.

          2. “Just how are we better off for having done this?”<?i>

            I thought I made that clear! But I guess I muddied the water there…

            Bullet points:

            1) We’ve been supporting vicious dictators against Muslim and Arab peoples since the Cold War–now we’re getting on the right side of history.

            We’re not there yet, but this was an inflection point.

            Those vicious dictators and their oppression were breeding grounds for anti-American terrorism.

            2) Al Qaeda used to argue that their form of jihad was the only viable means of opposing the vicious dictators that plagued the Muslim and Arab worlds. And right about now, Al Qaeda’s ultimately feckless form of jihad looks about as useful and practical as Gaddafi himself.

            If Muslim and Arab peoples have a truly viable alternative to Islamists and jihad against the West?

            It undercuts their argument for Islamists and jihad against the West.

            Cooperation with the West (including the United States), demanding respect for human rights, etc.? All of these things just did for the people of Libya what Islamists and jihad against the west–could never do.

            …despite decades of trying.


            That’s sort of how we ultimately won the Cold War. The people there realized that the West was on the side of the people–against the vicious communist dictators. And the people of Poland, Romania and elsewhere in Eastern Europe ultimately rose up against their dictators…

            That’s the way we’re gonna win the War on Terror too. Not by invading Poland or Romania and trying to force democracy on them at gunpoint. They gotta want it for themselves and take it for themselves.

            I think it’s strategically imperative for Arab and Muslim peoples to know that the west is there to assist as best we can–that we’ll meet them when they get there.

            Rather than being part of the problem, like we were in Egypt under Mubarak and Iraq under Bush the Lesser.

            1. Left the tag off somewhere there!


            2. Ken, your reasons on why we were right to help get rid of Qaddaffy (and Mubarak) rather depend on who wins out after these revolutions, doesn’t it?

              Right now, both countries look something like Iran did after it got rid of the Shah. In Egypt, particularly, we have the Western/liberal-friendly face of the revolution getting elbowed aside by religious fanatics. In Libya, we don’t even have a Western/liberal-friendly face, but we know AQ has a pretty good presence in at least part of the country.

              Your argument rises or falls on whether the successor regimes are friendly to us or not, but also on the premise that we won’t be involved ourselves in who succeeds the dictators there. I’m still not sure you can have it both ways.

              Maybe you’re buying into the old-school “punitive expedition” model, where we just go in and kill a bunch of people whenever they piss us off, and leave it up to them what they do in the meantime.

              1. we know AQ has a pretty good presence in at least part of the country

                Do we?

                Few Arab countries were so thoroughly cleansed of religious radicals by their own gov’t as Libya was.

                1. Apparently, a number of AQ fighters who showed up in Afghanistan or Iraq came from Eastern Libya.

              2. There’s no question that Libya could go in a number of different directions.

                There’s also no question but that it was only going in one direction while Gaddafi was in power.

                I’m glad the Libyan people toppled their dictator. …and I think Libya has a really good shot at making things work.

                Tons of oil to export. Thousands of miles of undeveloped beaches on the Mediterranean and hundreds of billions of dollars in assets that have been frozen by the U.S. and other western governments–all of which can be used by whatever government that emerges to rebuild Libya. Oh, and they only have a total population of around 6 million people to split all that!

                Things could still go bad, but I don’t argue against dictatorships because I’m a libertarian. I’m a libertarian because I think dictatorships are the worst possible way to deter civil strife.

                There’s always a risk that things could turn ugly–but… Can you imagine someone in the 19th century arguing that we should go back to being part of England just because America had a Civil War?

                The future’s always uncertain, and things could always go badly. But they weren’t about to get better–either from a U.S. perspective or a Libyan perspective–so long as Gaddafi was in power. And the Libyan people just weren’t willing to suffer his dictatorship anymore.

                There will be bumps in the road even if things go great! But once the Libyan people had made their choice to rebel, we had to get on the side that was in the best interests of the U.S.

              3. In Libya, we don’t even have a Western/liberal-friendly face, but we know AQ has a pretty good presence in at least part of the country.

                I’ve linked here before several reports I’ve read of former jihadis fighting against Gaddafi along with the rebels in Libya–and I see that as a good thing.

                I know it doesn’t sell in the mainstream press well–but as I stated above about what the benefits of this are for the U.S., if the U.S. is seen by would-be jihadis as an ally in their fight for freedom?

                That’s a good thing.

                We need to convince those people that we’re not interested in interfering in their internal affairs–we’re not a crusade. We’re not trying to take over their country like we took over Iraq…

                We’d like to establish diplomatic relations, and if they require some humanitarian assistance and assistance in holding elections under the auspices of the U.N.? That’s probably a pretty smart thing for us to do too!

                Peacekeeping is up to the Libyans. Libya’s future is up to Libyans. Proving that to ex-jihadis and would-be jihadis by actually leaving Libya’s future up to the Libyans is exactly the right way to handle them.

                No matter if they take a step backwards now and then.

    2. Any libertarian who suggests that keeping dictators around is somehow an appropriate solution to civil strife?

      I fully support the right of every people to rebel. This does not mean that I also support the US going to war every time someone rebels.

      War, please recall, is the health of the state. Libertarian opposition to any war that is not in self-defense is, well, libertarian.

      1. I don’t support the U.S. supporting every country that wants to rebel either.

        …only when it’s in our best interest to do so.

        There are some rules that go into that calculation for me–like not having to deploy troops, having an exit plan, which maybe a UN mandate serves as…

        But there’s no hard and fast rule about when something is in our best interests and when it isn’t.

        When the cost side of the cost/benefit costs us practically nothing in dollar terms or in terms of American casualties, though, that makes the decision a whole lot easier.

        Once the UN took responsibility for the aftermath in Libya, the only way we could have lost in Libya was if we sent in ground troops or assumed responsibility for the aftermath.

        There’s no guarantee that Obama won’t screw that up still–but I’m gonna argue against snatching defeat from the jaws of victory all the way to the wall.

        1. So, Ken, on to Syria? Why not? I’m sure we can reduce their pathetic air defenses in a few days and have free reign to bomb them as much as necessary, so there’s your “low cost”.

          The benefits, well, they would far exceed anything we could possibly see from bombing Libya.

          1. While you’re at it, we should just start taking over oil rigs, etc. It really is in our best interest.
            Sorry Ken, but the un-libertarian thing here is saying that going to war is acceptable not only in self-defense but”when it’s in our interests.” This is the attitude of a statist.

            1. “Sorry Ken, but the un-libertarian thing here is saying that going to war is acceptable not only in self-defense but”when it’s in our interests.” This is the attitude of a statist.”

              Anybody who doesn’t take America’s best interest into consideration when formulating American foreign policy isn’t qualified to formulate American foreign policy.

              Whether we should pull out of Afghanistan right now is another question entirely, but I supported sending troops to Afghanistan because I considered that a war of self-defense. I oppose sending troops to Syria, and I opposed sending troops to Iraq because neither were wars of self-defense.

              If only we’d had a president that used the Powell Doctrine and looked at the world taking America’s best interest at heart–rather than fighting for other people’s best interest? We wouldn’t be in Iraq right now.


              Sorry, Metazoan, but you’re not the arbiter of what is and what isn’t libertarian.

              …and just because you can’t think of a good libertarian argument to support the suggestion that dictators are the solution to civil strife?

              That’s no excuse for calling other people names like “un-libertarian” and “statist”.

          2. “So, Ken, on to Syria? Why not?”

            Go look at the Powell Doctrine.

            Because we don’t have an exit plan. We don’t have a UN mandate. …and there are a bunch of other reasons why it isn’t in our best interest at this point.

            I buy some stocks and not others. And I build some projects and not others. It would be absurd to suggest that because I bought one stock, I should buy all the other stocks too?

            The idea that because we did one thing in one place under one set of circumstance, that we have to do the same thing everywhere else too–regardless of circumstances? That’s absurd.

            I don’t think Syria is in our best interest at this point. I certainly wouldn’t support putting troops on the ground in Syria.

            I guess I see that the same way pretty much across the board… I’m against putting troops on the ground in Syria. I remain opposed to putting troops on the ground in Libya. I was against putting troops on the ground in Iraq.

            And for a lot of the same reasons–to avoid some eternal entanglement.

            1. I should add–you’re a lawyer. …and that means you spend a lot of time every day thinking like a lawyer!

              From a public policy perspective, the law’s supposed to treat everyone the same. The government under the law is supposed to treat everyone the same regardless of whether it’s in the government’s best interest to do so.

              When we need to consider our best interests, it just doesn’t work like that.

          3. I?m totally in favor of bombing Syria. That?s what America should have done instead of the stupid Libyan trip because Syria is a terror farm.

            This article sucks. Chapman?s a tool and Ken?s criticisms are very trenchant…although I will say that I don?t care whether Iraq was ?imposing? on the Iraqis. America has the right to impose all the freedom it wants.

  20. Sounds like a plan to me dude. Wow.

  21. The most important lesson to be learned from President Obama’s war on Libya is this: he can do whatever he wants to do, no matter how blatantly unconstitutional, and Congress will pick their collective noses, sigh a few times and line up to kiss his buttocks. And you really believe that he will submit to losing the 2012 elections? Who in the elite ruling class has the guts to prevent him from becoming ‘president-for-life’ by executive fiat if he so desires? Who in that group will oppose some Democratic version of the Reichstag fire legislation allowing him to remain until he’s ready to leave? Oh, wait; we can trust him to obey that part of the Constitution because … because … because why? Every other blatantly unconstitutional act of his has been responded to by looking the other way. Why? Because he’s black? Because he’s an openly socialistic ‘progressive’? I dunno, but I hope you folks will enjoy living in the Zimbabwe-look-alike that he and his cronies are going to create.

    1. Who in the elite ruling class has the guts to prevent him from becoming ‘president-for-life’ by executive fiat if he so desires?

      I think it’s worse than that; I don’t think the people in the elite ruling class lack the guts, I think they lack the principles. I think they’ll be bought off quite easily; if they get a share of the pie they’ll go with it.

      I don’t know if it will be Obama that does it but I think some president will do it soon, possibly within my lifetime. Obama is at least playing his part in greasing the skids for that downhill slide.

  22. Steve,

    Reading your columns is a consistent pleasure. Thank-you. One minor detail, the Toby Keith lyric you quoted goes back at least as far as the 1970’s. The song is Against the Wind, written and performed by Bob Seger.
    Marc Travis

  23. Transition to peace after the war is the most critical. And how they look, especially the newly established government.

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