Libya isn’t Iraq

20 Mar

I was not a supporter of the Iraq war because the United Nations never approved or otherwise sanctioned the use of force against Iraq. I am a strong believer in the United Nations, it being the only legitimate entity where the world’s nation-states can meet to discuss and solve international crises.  (This post isn’t about the efficacy or efficiency of the United Nations, nor is it an invitation to people to start in about one world government or other John Birch Society talking points).

Despite historical revisionism, the stated reason why the United States invaded Iraq had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein’s brutality; the stated justification for the invasion was that Hussein had violated United Nations sanctions, no-fly zones, and above all, continued to maintain and pursue an active campaign to seek and build a catastrophic arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Colin Powell disgraced himself forever when he took to the Security Council to seek that body’s approval to use military force against Iraq for its alleged failure to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which was a final chance for Hussein to abide by past disarmament commitments.  1441 was passed unanimously, but did not authorize the use of force without further Security Council action.  Instead, it authorized the creation of UNMOVIC, which commenced a series of inspections, which Hussein famously jerked around and obstructed for the sake of jerking around and obstructing; he had no active WMD program.

The US, Britain, and Spain met in March 2003 and decided independently that Hussein had violated 1441, and that the invasion would commence.  No Security Council resolution was ever introduced or voted on to authorize the use of force, as it would clear that at least one of its permanent members would veto it.  Kofi Annan, the UN’s Secretary-General, said in 2004 that in the UN’s eyes, the war in Iraq was illegal.

The war in Iraq was all about ideology, lies, mistakes, and using 9/11 as a pretext to complete unfinished business from the early 1990s.

By contrast, 2011 seems to be to the Arab world something similar to what the world saw in eastern Europe in 1989. Mass demonstrations and revolutions have sprung up among average citizens to overthrow corrupt mafia regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, with smaller conflagrations in Jordan and Syria. The United States’ chief ally in the Middle East is Israel, and we often see affairs in that region through a “how will this affect Israel” prism.  That’s legitimate, and many have tried to foment domestic opposition to the Arab uprisings by suggesting that these places would all become latter-day Afghanistan Taliban regimes. That ignores how comparatively cosmopolitan and stable Tunisia and Egypt are compared with an Afghanistan that’s been in political, economic, social, and military crisis almost non-stop since the 1970s.

If the Arab uprising is their 1989, then longtime madman Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who has practiced a weird sort of pseudo-Socialism with a strong cult of personality in that country since taking power in 1969, is their Ceausescu. He has plunged that country into a civil war, ordering his military to turn its guns on his own people.  Being mindful of the fact that he took power via coup, he had kept that country’s military deliberately weak, so he has employed the services of foreign mercenaries to destroy the rebellion.

On March 17th, the United Nations Security Council took up and passed Resolution 1973, authorizing the creation of a no-fly zone over Libya, to halt Gaddafi’s bombing of his own population.  It was a second step after Resolution 1970, which called on Gaddafi to stop harming civilians. It includes an arms embargo and an assets freeze.

The resolution was brought about thanks to a Security Council resolution voted on in the United Nations.  It specifically and explicitly authorizes the use of force taking place now in Libya, and the US is participating.  It came about thanks to the urging and support of the members of the Arab League, and the US has not taken the lead in this matter, letting regional actors do so instead – notably France. The stated primary purpose of the resolution and resultant action is legal, sanctioned, and has the stated goal of preventing Libya from using its military and hired mercenaries from murdering its own civilians.

This has no parallel with the Iraq war, and more closely resembles NATO and UN action taken in Kosovo and Bosnia to prevent humanitarian tragedy and slaughter of civilians.

27 Responses to “Libya isn’t Iraq”

  1. Randy Cole March 20, 2011 at 8:49 am #


  2. Alan Bedenko March 20, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    Thank you. Changed. 

  3. Richard March 20, 2011 at 9:47 am #

    France is leading not for humane reasons but to protect their primary source of sweet crude. 

  4. Mike In WNY March 20, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    If helping the people of Libya attain freedom from Gaddafi was really the goal, assassination would be quicker, cheaper and more effective. More of the lives we are claiming to help would be saved from death. I said “IF”, because that is really a farce. This is about OIL, as was Iraq. Spin the situation any way you want, it is wrong. The U.N. is wrong. France is wrong.

    Gaddafi, like Hussein, was supported by the U.S. for many years. Something is very wrong with supporting dictators, then deciding to take them out.

    Bush at least went to Congress before attacking Iraq. Obama went to Rio, then unilaterally authorized a U.S. attack on Libya.

    Even the broken clock, known as Michael Moore, is right on this war against Libya.

    France is known for producing a great farce, Moliere was a master. France taking the lead is the latest great farce from that country.

  5. Ray Walter March 20, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    Alan Bedenko on the side of neo-cons. Take comfort in the fact that people like Paul Wolfowitz agree with you.

  6. Brian Wood March 20, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    The U.N. Security Council, 5 winners in WWII, now a long time ago—stooge for U.S. aims.  Notice how the U.S. ALWAYS vetoes any sanction against Israel, another creation of U.S. power.  

    Do the Jews deserve a homeland?  Hell, yes!!  Where it is? Hell, no!!

  7. Jon Splett March 20, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    Well, if Mike in WNY is going to start sourcing Michael Moore in his justifications, I guess I can take a page from his play book on opposing this… how are we paying for this?

    How is the cost of a 3rd war justified in the middle of a recession? Those bombs, troops and planes cost money. You’ve got a congress trying to defund public radio but we’ve got the cash to start killing people again?

    Iraq was a stupid idea because we were trying to police the world. Libya is a stupid idea for the same reason. The fact the rest of the world is on board for it this time is completely irrelevant. We have an army to protect the American people. Gaddafi poses absolutely no threat to you, me or any other American.

  8. Hapklein March 20, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    I have been troubled for years that the US and the UN were not able to assert any decency into Dafur and Rwanda and hundreds of thousands perished while the world fretted about inflation and oil prices. 
    Libya has been under the domination of an evil plotter for forty some years who with the bombing of the jet liner over Locherbie Scotland demonstrated the evil he could concoct and visit on any in the world who seek to defy him.Extremely evil bullies should be excised from our midst.
    I dislike have our troops involved with three MUslim nations at the same time but it is finally with the approval and support of the world we act this time.
    Incidentally Libya’s oil is supplied to Italy not France,

  9. Brian Castner March 20, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    I feel like you picked the least important aspect of this (the UN resolution) and framed it in such a way as to “prove” that Iraq was wrong but this is right. Ignoring the actual merits of the argument you are choosing to have (there were 12 years of UN resolutions on Iraq justifying all sorts of action, so I think your point is less than open and shut), you are missing the vital problems – no vote in Congress, no explanation from Obama about why here but not Sudan, the Congo, etc where the huamnitarian disaster is worse (but he kept the trip to Brazil – that will haunt him, I predict), and most important, no lessons learned from the past 10 years. France has a bad history of interventions in Libya – excellent PR choice for them to lead this fiasco. I thought Obama, unlike Bush, was only going to commit troops when there were clear objectives, vital national interest, endgame blah blah blah? This intervention has set a new low bar for military involvement – we’re picking sides in a tribal war that is only a couple weeks old. In Bosnia/Kosovo we had the moral backing of stopping genocide. Here there are a couple towns without electricity. Our missiles will knock out just as much.

  10. Brian Wood March 20, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

    Did congress declare this war, or merely the tyrant?

  11. Jafafa Hots March 20, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

    I remember back during the first gulf war, it was clear we had to help out. I mean, we had the UN with us and a coalition of many countries, and this bad guy had invaded a helpless neighbor.

    Sure, Grenada had been an obvious farce, and Panama was another obvious lie, but now – Gulf War I, this war seemed JUST.

    Until it came out that it was all lies, the babies being taken from incubators was a lie, the “eye-witness” was a diplomat’s daughter who was more New Yorker than Kuwaiti, we’d set up Saddam in the first place, practically given him the green light, etc.

    Then of course there’s Iraq II. Afghanistan, regardless of our initial motive, is clearly BS.

    I’m sorry, when my government tells me there’s some Bad Man that is doing Bad Things and we must act, I don’t believe them anymore. Not that he might not be a Bad Man, he might be doing Bad Things, but he likely was also OUR appointed Bad Man until we got tired of him.

    I don’t trust a word the US says about any foreign country, I don’t trust any “news” reports about weapons programs or justification for war.

    The little boy has cried wolf too many times.

  12. Hapklein March 20, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

    Boy am I ever educated about what is going on. The fact is that the United States in United Nations Actions has pledged by treaty to serve humanity in UN Actions. 
    Action by congress is not necessary and obviously not desirable.
    I can just imagine what the morons would do who spent a lot of time this month to explain why climate change does not exist.
    We are in a vortex of ignorance and just must hope  that reason can rejoin our effort at some later

  13. al l March 20, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    Although my diploma in international relations has yet to arrive from my online university, it seems that the situation was exacerbated by well intentioned but uncoordinated actions.  By taking away any possible outs for Gaddafi, he was locked into a fight to the death.  His assets frozen, declared a criminal for the Pan Am bombings, and no place to run off to.  He had no options but to fight.  

    All of which is fine, had the international community followed up all those actions by immediately declaring a no fly zone to protect civilians and rebels (or recognizing them as belligerents, or actively intervening).  The Rebels were unable to consolidate their gains and instead, Gaddafi had a window to counter attack with what ever means he could muster.  Now the Rebels are backed up to Benghazi.  

    Since the G-man is such a newfound pariah, the international community cant go ahead and pretend that this particular megalomaniac hasnt or isnt killing his own people.  That means getting oil is a whole lot more awkward for those silly central and southern Europeans.  That leaves us where?  At a stalemate where no one gets anything but instability: Gadaffi is stuck in his half a country, with no state visits from Silvo likely; The Europeans cant get the Libyan oil for which their refineries are set up for; The greater Arab awaking is stalled, with no one in particular in charge.

    And now we’re stuck being part of a coalition with no clear achievable goals.  Hopefully Gaddafi just escapes “unbeknownst” to us.

    To sum up:  Awesome. Planning. Fail.

  14. Ward March 20, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

    Shorter Pundit:
    Iraq = Bush = Bad.
    Libya = Obama = Good.

  15. hank March 20, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    Damn-it Ward, just got back from drivin’ 1/2 way to Buffalo from NC and back pickin’ up my Mom,Ya JUST beat me to it.

  16. Mike In WNY March 20, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

    Hap, I’m all in favor of legalizing whatever you are smoking.

  17. Hapklein March 21, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    I don’t understand how Bush’s Cowboy tactics are supposed to be equal to a collective reaction to human need by Obama with the full cooperation and support of the member nations except Russia and China who abstained.
    People seem alarmed that we finally have a President who does consult and deliberate and obviously can chew gum and walk at the same time.
    Obama is in Brazil trying to end impasses on trade and common good that are over fifty years old and still manages to preside at the conference with the Chiefs of staff and Secretary of State prior to the Libya action. Modern people using modern tools still seem to surprise some of our commentators.
    Bush on the other hand, consulted with Dick Cheney then handed off propaganda to Powell who wrecked his reputation at the UN with the palpable lies that were demonstrated as false during the one nation invasion. 

  18. Jesse March 21, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    Wow, never thought I’d see Alan arguing the neocon side.  War is good if it’s a Democrat leading the charge!  Yeeeehawww!  Fire up the tomahawks!!  Gotta use ’em for something, might as well be for blowin up Libya!  Libya kinda sounds like Dubya, that’s the ticket!

    So despite the eloquent “defense” of blowing up shit in Libya, Alan misses a few absolutely critical details, such as “the foreign policy that says this is a good idea”, “the actual goal or point of the operation”, and “how we’ll know if we’ve ‘won'”.

    What the hell is the goal, Obama?  Very slick of you to hang in Brazil and let Hillary take the heat, by the way.

    • Alan Bedenko March 21, 2011 at 8:59 am #

      Interesting to see the way comments are more about me than anything else.

      1. Neoconservativism is centered around a belief that American military might ought to be used to bring about regime change and a shift in ideology to more closely resemble the United States (i.e., a dysfunctional nominally pluralistic representative democracy where the chief constituents are the moneyed). I don’t see Libya 2011 (or Kosovo 1999 or Bosnia 1994-5) as neoconservative efforts. Instead, they were efforts undertaken by the United States in conjunction with the international community to halt a slaughter of civilians. You want to know what the point of the operation is? It’s to halt the Libyan Air Force, such as it is, from bombing the holy hell out of its own citizens. If anything, Tunisia and Egypt underscore the central fallacy of neoconservative thought – that people living under Arabic dictatorship are fully capable of bringing about change domestically. Not to mention the fact that regime change in Iraq did absolutely nothing to aid in Israel’s security.

      2. Had George W. Bush gone to the Security Council in 2003 and managed to obtain its approval for military action in response to what then seemed to be Hussein’s violation of myriad SC resolutions, at least in my mind it would have legitimized that military action. Without UN approval, it was a blatant aggressive invasion of a sovereign nation-state. I’m a huge believer in the mission of the United Nations in general, and the Security Council in particular.

      3. It’s fascinatingly hypocritical to see Republicans raising the issue of the Powell Doctrine, which had been spat upon, ridiculed, dismissed, and abrogated during the entirety of the last decade. By rejecting its rule under your watch, you hardly have the authority to demand adherence to it now. I’m also fascinated by the fact that Gaddafi’s regime is as bad – if not worse – than Saddam Hussein’s was. I distinctly recall being told time and again how that removal of Hussein was of critical importance for regional security, for reasons including his brutality against his people. Yet now all we’re doing is participating in a broad international effort to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, run by a sadistic and cruel dictator, and you all tsk-tsk and suggest that somehow Obama can’t be dealing with Latin American affairs while American fighters patrol Libyan airspace. Adding to the hypocrisy is the sour grapes being hurled at Obama about being in “Rio”. I guess it’s payback for endless clearing of brush by his predecessor.

      4. The alternative, of course, is best left unsaid. That Gaddafi would have used his military and mercenaries to brutally put down what amounts to the first ever serious grassroots challenge to his long rule. All of a sudden, Gaddafi should be left in power because we failed to do anything about him over the past 40 years? Despite the fact that he has been an international pariah throughout the 70s – 00s. Despite the fact that he personally ordered terrorist actions against Americans throughout the 80s. When I grew up, he was to us what al Qaeda is today. But republicans want to keep him around because God forbid Obama have anything to do with his departure. That would be unbearable.

  19. Bbill March 21, 2011 at 9:38 am #

    Shorter Planet Wingnut:
    Iraq = Bush = Good.
    Libya = Obama = Bad.

  20. Jesse March 21, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    “Yet now all we’re doing is participating in a broad international effort to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya”

    Except that we’re leading it, providing basically all the hardware and expertise.

    Why Libya?  What is special about Libya (or Kosovo) that DEMANDS the Democrats support military action, when civil wars rage in plenty of other African nations with nary a peep from our military or our “left wing” leaders?  Sudan, anyone?

    Where is the anti-war left?  The only honest ‘public’ guy I know is Daniel Ellsberg.  Oh noes, a military leader somewhere in the world is being mean to his people but now THIS TIME we have to jump in!  It’s not like he wasn’t a shit bag for 40 years.  It’s not like all those other tin-pot ass-hats haven’t been assholes for decades.

    But suddenly THIS time it’s cool, let’s go in a blow us up some shit.

    For the record, I didn’t want to bomb Iraq, I surely didn’t want to waste a trillion in Afghanistan, and I sure as hell don’t want us in Libya.  Why can’t we have a defensive military spending maybe half of what we spend now?  I don’t recall the Constitution demanding an empire.

  21. Mike In WNY March 21, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    Had George W. Bush gone to the Security Council in 2003 and managed to obtain its approval for military action in response to what then seemed to be Hussein’s violation of myriad SC resolutions, at least in my mind it would have legitimized that military action.

    Spoken like a true advocate of World Government.

  22. Jus'sayin' March 21, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    If you know the words to the Marine Corps Hymn: ‘From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli…’ and from Wikipedia: We’ve been doing this for a long time. Occasionally, it works.
    The NY Times points out that cutbacks in news operations have landed disproportionately on foreign news operations, and many Americans display a profound ignorance of foreign affairs, and most of them just don’t care until their ox is gored (present company excepted).
    The coverage I’ve seen is remarkable for its inability to explain what’s happening on the ground and in public opinion in the nations that ring the mediterranean. The U.N. was one step in the process, but I think that The Arab League’s decision to support intervention tipped the balance, and it was typically slow in coming and the organization is now waffling. (there are no backsies, here, sorry)
    I don’t think this is a neocon issue. I also don’t think it has anything to do with Iraq. Yeah, I know that I’m ignorant and stupid. I think that preventing Quadaffi from using his money and mercenaries to slaughter a poorly-armed citizen militia seeking to end his 40-year illegitimate rule comes fairly close to the U.S.’ founding principles. It’s comparable to France’s assistance during our revolutionary war.
    I don’t know enough to argue about constitutionality here. I agree with the sentiment that had the President consulted Congress, nothing would be done. I also seem to recall that Reagan consulted no one about Grenada or Panama.
    We don’t know who the rebels are, but most of Quadaffi’s diplomatic corps has thrown its support to the effort. Clinton did not cross over to the dark side until after her trip to Cairo, and I think that’s telling. Egypt cannot support regime change in its neighbor, nor should they be asked to do so. The U.S. is asking for nations such as Jordan and Qatar to lend their military support, as France, Italy and Britain lead the way.
    Libya used to be two countries and the eastern part (where all the oil lies) used to be Cyrenaica (sp?). In addition, everything that’s anything in Libya lies within 25 miles of the coast. This means that a no-fly zone is easily managed and as Tony Cordesman said during the first Gulf War, a desert is a perfect venue for an air war.
    I have no idea how long this will last. I think the cost is comparatively negligible. I think what the U.S. has to gain in terms of public opinion in what we cavalierly refer to as ‘the Arab street’ is potentially huge. My feeling is that there is lasting change coming to this part of the world. Let’s see: does ‘huddled masses yearning to be free’ ring a bell? It’s a terrible balancing act, but I think the President made the right call here based on what can be known right now.

  23. Bbill March 22, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    At least Fox “News” is seizing the opportunity to lie and lie and lie. That’s reassuring.

  24. Ward March 22, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation,”
    — Candidate Barry Obama, December 20, 2007.

    He goes on: ““In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch.”

    But of course, this situation was different. Barry had the approval of Hillary Clinton.

  25. Hank March 22, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    Touch Longer Pundit

    Kosovo—Clinton—GOOD Bosnia–Clinton—GOOD Iraq/Afghanistan–Bush–BAD—–Libya—Obama—GOOD. No trend there, keep moving along folks.

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