Libya is no Iraq

Really?  Really people?  First you carp at the Obama administration for NOT acting as the conflict in Libya started rolling, and now you’re crying because he has?  It’s time to go back on the meds, folks, and time to stop playing partisan politics with serious foreign policy issues.

President Obama absolutely did the right thing with regards to Libya.  He is absolutely right to send in the U.S. military to enforce a no-fly zone and to protect civilians from the deliberate and devastating attacks of Moammar Qaddaffi’s army.  He is absolutely right to aid the Libyan rebels in their quest to oust the dictator.  And any comparisons between Libya circa 2011 and Iraq circa 2003 are just plain wrong.  Ridiculous, even.

In the past month we’ve seen lawmakers from both sides criticize this president for not doing enough to help the Libyan rebels when they asked for help.  Just over a week ago, President Obama finally committed military air power against Qaddaffi’s forces.  Since then, those very same lawmakers have changed course and berated him for involving the U.S. in what they call a Libyan civil war, and doing so without consulting Congress.

Say what?

So which is it, people?  Do we stand for freedom, human rights, and against the methodical, vicious slaughter of innocent civilians?  Or are we suddenly an isolationist nation that thinks it necessary to leave everyone to their own devices?

Look, there’s no denying that the run-up to the Iraq war was a complete disaster.  It was a war manufactured by the Bush administration via lies and exaggeration.  Yes, Saddam Hussein was a bad guy.  But no, he was not an imminent threat to the United States or even his own countrymen.  He was a brutal dictator, but the circumstances in Libya today are far different from the circumstances in Saddam’s Iraq.

First, there is a viable, identifiable, somewhat cohesive opposition group in Libya that opposes the Qaddaffi government that has a leadership structure in place to immediately install a provisional government should Qaddaffi fall.  They have an established base and have clear control of the city of Benghazi in the Eastern part of Libya, near the Egyptian border.  They have been recognized as the legitimate government by the French, and have been in direct communication with American and NATO diplomats, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Second, this rebel leadership asked for our help.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the Arab League, in a most unusual and unexpected move, specifically asked the United States and its allies for assistance.  The Arabs themselves have asked for NATO forces to militarily intervene in Libya, specifically requesting the establishment of the no-fly zone, and have offered their full support, including involving their own military forces.

Let the significance of that sink in for a moment.  This is not the “Great Satan,” America looking to impose its “empirical will” on a sovereign nation through military force.  This is not the “Evil America” unilaterally seeking the overthrow of a foreign regime.

This is the United States, after very careful consideration and deliberation, with the consultation of our allies and under a United Nations directive specifically authorizing the use of force, contributing resources and unique capabilities to aid an organized yet underequipped opposition force who asked for our help.

This is a collaborative effort with very significant resources being contributed by France (who took the lead in establishing the no-fly zone), Britain, Turkey and several others.

But let’s go back to the rebel leadership, because their importance cannot be overemphasized.  They have a clear goal of regime change, and they have the desire and capability—with a little help—to accomplish it.  They are willing and able to do the heavy lifting, but they needed a little boost to level the playing field.  Qaddafi, after all, has an entire air force and military at his disposal.  The rebels maybe have a few planes, but not enough to push back against Qaddafi’s forces.

They are not counting on foreign military forces to do the fighting for them.  They are not looking for the United States or anyone else to do all the work.  And unlike in Iraq, there was a clear desire and necessity for outside intervention.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, sniping from both sides of the aisle continued, even after President Obama’s speech on the efforts in Libya.  Democratic Congress members Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Mike Capuano, Dennis Kucinich and others have questioned the constitutionality of U.S. missile strikes in Libya.  Kucinich has been particularly outspoken from the start of the U.S. military role in Libya, and is authoring a bill in Congress to stop funding military activities there.

On the Republican side, you have presidential hopefuls such as Newt Gingrich first clamoring for action, then, once Obama takes action, declaring that the U.S. should not be involved.  Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Senator Lindsey Graham (S.C.), among others, insisting that Obama’s response was too timid or weak, implying that instead of a no-fly zone, Obama should have sent U.S. ground troops in to start a full scale war with the Libyan dictator.  As if our already overly extended military could withstand a third war.  And their displeasure with the fact that the FRENCH of all people have taken the lead.  After all, it’s just plain un-American to allow anybody but us to start a war!

As to John Boehner’s and others insistence that Congress should have been involved, wouldn’t consulting Congress have delayed action?  They could still be mulling it over!

The bottom line is this:  We’re a bunch of freaking hypocrites!  We cry about how we’re all for freedom and democracy, and hide behind those kinds of statements in order to justify actions in Iraq and Afghanistan (although military action in Afghanistan was justified……it was just badly mishandled.  But that’s another story).  But when we’re asked—nay, BEGGED for our help, and when our president thoughtfully and responsibly works to ensure that the United States will not be burdened alone with the responsibility of and fallout from military action; guaranteeing that the monetary costs of action will not be borne by the U.S. alone; and that military action has the world’s support so that no one can criticize us for being an overly zealous military power seeking to take over the world……when our assistance is requested by the very same entities that have decried our actions in the past, we’re supposed to say ‘NO?’

Either we stand for freedom, democracy, and basic human rights, or we don’t.  And in the case of Libya, where the costs of not acting far outweigh the costs of doing something, we have a responsibility to heed the call for assistance, but to do so in a responsible manner that has the significant support of the rest of the world.

And that is exactly what President Obama has done.  And for that, I say “Well done, sir!”

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