Stephanie's Political Arena

Critiques and Perspectives on National Politics and More

The Non-War Whatchamacallit in Libya

with 9 comments

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama delivered a prime time address to the nation to talk about the war… I mean, the conflict… I mean, the intervention…, I mean the… ummmm… okay, the “whatchamacallit” with which U.S. forces are involved in Libya.  I’ll let my favorite late-night commentators explain what I mean…

So… what are we doing in Libya?  Do the ever-rising gas prices have anything to do with getting our military involved with the chaos submerging that country?  Did our intelligence community produce information indicating that Moammar Gaddafi was withholding weapons of mass destruction?  Why wasn’t Congress included in on Obama’s decision to involve the U.S. military?  Why did he not deliver a prime time address to the nation before authorizing the military intervention (if that’s what it is)?  And, last but not least, where are the protesters in all of this? 

Why am I hearing crickets all of a sudden?

In a column he wrote for Politico this week, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s Morning Joe provides a brief historical overview of the last decade of America’s involvement in wars abroad.  “For a decade now, we have been told of George W. Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s moral failings,” Scarborough wrote.  “Bush had to be condemned as an immoral beast who killed women and children to get his bloody hands on Iraq oil.”

Yet, I do recall President Bush seeking approval from Congress before sending our troops into Iraq.  I recall watching the Congressional hearings as well as the hearings before the United Nations in which Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice provided satellite images that our intelligence community had provided that indicated where Saddam Hussein was believed to have been hiding weapons of mass destruction.  I recall reading numerous articles and watching clips of press conferences in which Bush warned Hussein to stand down or we were going in.  Last, but not least, I watched Bush’s prime time address with my younger brother (who was soon on his way to Iraq) in which he told the American people that he gave the orders for our military to advance into Iraq and disarm Saddam Hussein.

I won’t get into whether that was the right or wrong decision at the time.  Regardless, Bush went through an open and fairly lengthy process in determining if and how the U.S. military should enter Iraq.  To this day, he’s still mocked and criticized for his decision.

Obama, on the other hand, did not follow his predecessor’s step-by-step model in deciding whether or not to become militarily engaged in Libya – especially when we still have troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I woke up last Saturday morning and learned that our forces were dropping bombs on Libya.  Interestingly, the traditionally liberal-leaning Huffington Post went so far as to say Obama had signed an order in support of Libyan rebels in secrecy.  

Even the New York Times seems a bit uncertain as to what exactly the U.S. mission is in Libya at this time.  Helen Cooper writes, “The president said he was willing to act unilaterally to defend the nation and its core interests.  But in other cases, he said, when the safety of Americans is not directly threatened but where action can be justified – in the case of genocide, humanitarian relief, regional security or economic interests – the United States should not act alone.”  So, if he intends to take on Libya unilaterally, what exactly are the core interests in doing so?  In what way does our intelligence indicate that Americans are directly threatened by Qaddafi?

Hmmmm… I’m still hearing those crickets…


Written by Stephanie

March 31, 2011 at 4:10 am

9 Responses

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  1. You raise some good questions here, Stephanie, and I like the way you pull in the basic confusion across multiple sources. It helps this read very smart.

    Deborah Blum

    April 3, 2011 at 2:56 am

    • Thanks so much, Deb! I really appreciate your comments, particularly as I tried to take a neutral, yet somewhat critical approach to this issue and the circumstances surrounding it. Thanks again!


      April 3, 2011 at 6:15 pm

  2. This was a very good read. I wonder if the war in Libya will mark as Obama’s war or just a war without considering specific aim. Do we, as the super-power, have to intervene whenever there is a human disaster. I wonder who would intervene us if, and when, we produce a human disaster, I am referring to Iraq.

    Saideh Jamshidi

    April 3, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    • Thank you, Saideh. I’m glad you enjoyed it, particularly given that you’re much more familiar with the unrest in the Middle East and the history behind it than I am.


      April 3, 2011 at 6:16 pm

  3. I agree with Deborah – You do raise some good questions. I think there definitely needs to be more more transparency as to why we are participating in the conflict in Libya. From the perspective of an average citizen, transparency seems to be one of the most important things for any political leader to do to gain the trust of his/her people on whatever action they took.

    Jenny S

    April 3, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    • Thanks Jenny! I appreciate your comments. Regardless of which party is in power, when it comes to militarily engaging another country, there needs to be transparency. I think this is particulary important for families who have a loved one set to be deployed to the front lines. Thanks again!


      April 3, 2011 at 6:18 pm

  4. I agree with the others, Stephanie – you offer some very compelling questions. I do appreciate the fact that the situation in Libya is being approached by a group of a number of different countries; that it’s not simply the Big Brother U.S. who is stepping in an interfering by himself.

    However, I also agree with your demand for clarity – if we don’t have a clear vision of what we hope to accomplish in Libya, how can it turn out well? More broadly, why do world leaders always seem to turn to violence instead of discussion or a peaceful approach? Thanks for looking at the hypocritical sides of the issue.


    April 3, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    • Thank you, Victoria! Yes, I agree that it is nice for a change that other countries are stepping up and helping out.


      April 3, 2011 at 6:19 pm

  5. Great post, Stephanie. A couple of thoughts come to mind: my understanding (from reading the NY Times) is that Obama hesitated before authorizing U.S. military support for an intervention in Libya, he made clear that there would be no U.S. troops on the ground there, and the United States and the UN demanded Arab countries’ support of the intervention. In addition, while Bush did go to Congress before instigating the Iraq war, the administration failed to use U.S. intelligence on the (lack of) weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But you point to a larger question of whether it’s appropriate or effective for the United States and other world powers to attempt to forcibly promote democracy or end violence against civilians. We’ve seen this question raised again and again — in Germany (WW II), in Bosnia, in Rwanda, and in the Middle East.

    Amy Karon

    April 3, 2011 at 8:20 pm

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