Libya Is Not Iraq

Although I wouldn’t go so far as saying I’m endorsing the military action in Libya, do read Juan Cole (emphasis in the original):

United Nations allies France, Britain and the United States took the lead Saturday evening in imposing a no-fly zone on Libya. French and British fighter jets flew dangerous missions, given that the anti-aircraft batteries of the pro-Qaddafi forces had not yet been knocked out. Then the United States launched a barrage of 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles, targeting Qaddafi’s anti-aircraft installations. Apparently this role of taking out Qaddafi’s air defenses is the primary one envisaged for the US, after which it will fade into the background and allow other UN allies to take the lead. In Paris, the Qatari foreign minister announced that Qatari jets would join the mission, but did not say when. …

… Ironically, actual anti-colonial movements such as Algeria’s FLN or National Liberation Front back in the late 1950s and early 1960s often attempted to elicit the intervention of the United Nations. In that regard, the elation of the Benghazi crowds at the UNSC resolution authorizing a no-fly zone stands in a long tradition of seeking succor from oppression from the international community.

Moreover, the impetus for the no-fly zone came from the Arab League, full of what used to be called Third World states. It was tabled at the UNSC by Lebanon and supported by Bosnia, Nigeria, Colombia and South Africa. As for ‘crusades,’ it is not an accusation that can plausibly be launched against the Arab League, full of Muslim states, or, indeed, against Bosnia or the current Lebanese government or religiously plural Nigeria.

Michael Moore can bellyache all he likes, but I think that if the impetus did indeed come from the Arab League, and as it is a UN action more than a US action, the action in Libya really isn’t anything like Iraq. Further, I don’t think the U.S. is in a position to sit out of a military action that so many allies seem determined to pursue.

I read in The Hill that “A hard-core group of liberal House Democrats is questioning the constitutionality of U.S. missile strikes against Libya.” This is something that needs to be questioned. However, I struggle to remember the last war that began in an unquestionably constitutional way. World War II, maybe?

As I understand it, however, the President’s actions in Libya so far are entirely within the current War Powers Act, at least as other recent presidents have interpreted it. I think it would be grand if some future and less wingnut-riddled Congress revisited the War Powers Act and reined it in quite a bit. However, screaming that the President deserves to be impeached, as Dennis Kucinich is doing, for authorizing a military action that laws of Congress (arguably) allow him to authorize is, um, stupid. You can’t impeach a president for doing something that Congress has said president may do. Maybe Congress should impeach itself first.

See also Earl Ofari Hutchison.

19 thoughts on “Libya Is Not Iraq

  1. I’m on the fence on this one. From what I’ve read the CIA operatives are permanently attached to their computer screens at Langley when they should be out in the field ‘handling’ the likes of Ghaddafi. They posit the argument that dictators like G. are impossible to get close to, a lame argument given that the whole reason for the existence of spooks is to get close to people impossible to get close to.

    Then there’s the good possibility that G. won’t leave and we won’t manage to kill him with our ordinance and then what do we do. I’ll predict that a lot of collateral damage, like innocents being killed, will occur should the no-fly tactic continue for more than a month or so. What, 150,00 Iraqis killed to get to one man?

    I remember when Reagan bombed G.’s hangout in ’86. Killed at least 100 innocents including G’s baby daughter. (I also remember the macabre articles in the papers the next day claiming the bombing a ‘victory.’)

  2. I also have mixed feeling about this.
    Yes, maybe the US should be a presence if everyone else is. We could use some goodwill and good press with the people in the Middle East after our history of overthrowing elected leaders and putting in and supporting brutal dictators.
    But, who are we kidding? The only reason any of us, ANY of us, is getting involved is because of Libyan oil.
    And I’m glad we decided to wait until the Arab League got involved – which John McSame and Joe Liebers-himself apparently, if you listened to those two jackasses today, we shouldn’t have done. As usual, Obama was too SLOW to get our military involved for those two brave, Medal of Whatever, winners. Particularly Joe, who never served – but his GI Joe’s did!
    There are humanitarian disasters in a lot of places, brutal leaders and dictators killing their people left and right all over the continents, like Africa, Myanmar is no shining example either, but we sit on our haunches and/or, at best, give some sort of financial aid.
    The only difference I see here, is oil.
    I’m surprised at the name, too: “Operation Odyssey Dawn.”
    It sounds more like a new dish detergent.
    Why not “Operation Independent Libya?”
    Oh, wait, like Iraq and “Operation Iraqi Liberty,” they both spell “O-I-L!”

  3. cundgulag – Operation Odyssey Dawn? Who makes up this stuff? Odyssey definitely does not portend well given that an Odyssey is a long series of wanderings or adventures.

    My favorite is the name given to Reagan’s attack on Grenada years ago – “Operation Urgent Fury.” What the hell is an “urgent fury?” Can anyone imagine saying to anyone else “I’m having an urgent fury” or “I’m in an urgent fury” As I said, who the hell makes this stuff up. Military intelligence, that’s who – and everyone knows that “military intelligence” is an oxymoron.

  4. Felicity,
    The other thing that cracks me up about “Operation Odessey Dawn,” is wondering if anyone in the damn military ever the poem by Homer?
    The ‘dawn’ of ‘Odesseus’s’ journey began a 10 year “odessey.”
    WTF are they thinking?
    In some respects, we’ve already have odessey’s of almost 10 and 8 years in Afghanistan and Iraq. Actually, after the “Illiad” of those two wars, which were more like Pyrrhic victories, you might think that military leaders weren’t too keen on starting a new adventure. Let alone a decade long one.
    Enough! Time for the return to Penelope, not start a new adventure.
    I mean, I know you can’t call it “Operation Here We Go With Another Middle East Fuster-cluck,” but c’mon, you can do better that “OOD!”
    How about “Turgid Awareness,” or “Urgent Reinvention?”
    Or, “Leave Us Out, We’re Approaching Our Own New Dawn.”
    Or, wait, if, as they say, they promise that no US ground troops will ever be involved, how about, Operation “Baby, If I Don’t Put It All the Way In, You Can’t Get Pregnant!”
    Still, I pray this goes well. I just have real reservations about this.

  5. It seems to me that the selfsame persons beating their breasts about how unconstitutional and horrible this is would have been those screaming loudest when Qadaffi started slaughtering Bengazi residents without mercy (as an “example” to other would-be protesters).

    It is sadly telling that the focus of the Rightie blogosmear is on how the “leftists” have their panties in a bunch, because they can’t support what they’d have supported if McLame had been Pres’unt (as Bob Dole calls it).

    And the sheer cravenness of the Arab League’s (to be fair, their Sec’y-Gen’l) walkback of their request AFTER the operation was underway seems to have attracted virtually zero candlepower.

    This reminds me of Bosnia, which everyone pilloried Clinton over, but which DID stop the slaughter. But, hell, what are a few more dead Arabs? We’ve got out precious scruples to attend to.


  6. Isn’t the War Powers act dependent upon there being a direct threat? Humanitarian issues don’t qualify, or do they? I don’t know the law on stuff like this but if I were a republican I would use this difference to go after Obama.

  7. “On 29 May 2002, Libya offered up to US$2.7 billion to settle claims by the families of the 270 killed in the Lockerbie bombing, representing US$10 million per family.”

    “On 24 February 2011, resigned justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil revealed that Muamar Gaddafi personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing. ”

    Quotes: “[Jalil] told Expressen Khadafy [sic] gave the order to Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed all 259 people on board and 11 on the ground on 21 Dec. 1988. ‘To hide it, he (Khadafy) did everything in his power to get al-Megrahi back from Scotland,’ Abdel-Jalil was quoted as saying.”

    July 16, 2010 | By John F. Burns, New York Times

    “Oil giant BP faced a new furor Thursday as it confirmed that it had lobbied the British government to conclude a prisoner-transfer agreement that the Libyan government wanted to secure the release of the only person convicted for the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing over Scotland, which killed 270 people, most of them Americans.”


  8. Sorry – I accidents sent the former before I wrote a conclusion. The Lockerbie bombing was ordered by Ghadafi personally. Over 200 American civilians died. The convicted bomber was released for humanitarian reasons – diagnosed with cancer and only three months to live. He was welcomed as a hero in Tripoli two years ago and still lives. BP helped secure the release of the bomber to secure an oil deal. That’s the part that makes me nervous. Petrodollars don’t care who benefits and continued business with Ghadafi strengthens the position of a mass murdererer of innocent Americans.

    IMO, it will be easier to facilitate the removal of the dictator than it will be to separate the oil companies from Libya oil.

  9. “Operation Odyssey Dawn” – either I’m getting older (true) or it gets more comic book all the time.

    I think it would be grand if some future and less wingnut-riddled Congress revisited the War Powers Act and reined it in quite a bit.

    I feel that way about most of the Constitution. Some great ideas there, but it badly needs an update. “The War Power Act” – which overrides the plain language on this topic in the Constitution is but one bandaid of many.

  10. There are people in North Korea who are praying that someone finds oil in their country, so Lil’ Kim can have to hustle from safe houe to safe house until a missile finally cleaves his coiffered skull.

    The more I think about this, the more I’m against it.

  11. IF the goal is as stated — to halt the slaughter of anti-Qaddafi rebels — what happens when we succeed?

    Do we stay indefinitely to preserve the stalemate? Or do we expand the mission to overthrow Qaddafi, claiming that as long as he’s in power, his opponents will always be threatened?

    If the latter, it sounds a lot like nation building (since there’s no clear leadership among the rebels to step into power) and once again we’re in for an extended, indefinite period of time.

    A third possibility would be to support the rebels, either by supplying arms or actively engaging on their side, but doing so would far exceed the UN mandate, undermine any credibility the west has left in the ME, and further fuel ME resentment of western interference.

    Now that we’re involved, I hope I’m wrong and that this ends well. But so far, nothing indicates that this is anything but a knee-jerk reaction that hasn’t been thought through.

  12. I wonder how much we just spent on this? I don’t hear any screams from Congress that WE’RE BROKE! WE CAN’T AFFORD THIS!! Maybe the military should “tighten its belt” and sit one of these little wars out.

    I’ll come down on the side of “No War for Oil” — it’s never been wrong yet, unlike all the serious people who clamor for these things. Let ExxonMobil and BP and Shell hire BlackwaterXe to run their wars. I want no part of this.

  13. What makes the situation in Libya any different from a civil war?

    I know that Libya is not Iraq, but didn’t we learn from Iraq that our mighty air power has limitations…Gadhafi can still slaughter the rebels and civilian populations without the use of air power. I guess we could always bomb the Libyan power grid and water treatment plants to make governing difficult for Gadhafi, just like we did for Saddam.. Gadhafi is already screaming about not having milk for babies as a result of the initial strike to impose the no-fly.

    Well, that’s my two cents..But I do keep in mind that we are Americans, and as such,whoever we bomb needs to be bombed, and God has tasked us to that righteous obligation.

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