Assault Launched on Libya

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Ben Cohen
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From the NYTimes:

American and European forces began a broad campaign of strikes against the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi on Saturday, unleashing warplanes and missiles in the first round of the largest international military intervention in the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon said.

Pentagon and NATO officials detailed a mission designed to impose a United Nations-sanctioned no-fly zone and keep Mr. Qaddafi from using airpower against beleaguered rebel forces in the east. While the overall effort was portrayed as mostly being led by France and Britain, the Pentagon said that American forces dominated an effort to knock out Libya’s air-defense systems.

Again, I think it is important to remember context here, and not get caught up in the hype surrounding our newest Middle Eastern enemy. Glenn Greewald draws some parallels with the invasion of Iraq:

Foreign Policy's JoshRogin reports that Obama just this week changed his mind onLibya from opposing to supporting intervention because he became convinced that this would change America's posture in the region by placing us on the side of freedom and democracy. But would it really do that? As our Saudi, Yemeni, Bahraini, Jordanian, Kuwaiti, Egyptian andIraqi close friends continue to impose varying degrees of domestic oppression and violence, is yet another military intervention in an oil-rich Muslim nation really going to transform rather than bolster how we're perceived in that region?This claim -- we'll be viewed as strong and magnanimous in theMuslim world -- was also, of course, a featured claim justifying theattack on Iraq.And just as was true for Iraq, how this ends up being perceived, and what it turns out to be in fact, depends on a whole slew of unknowable factors, including what we end up doing there, how long it takes, and whom we end up supporting.

Although the media won't come out and say it, the only reason we care about Libya is because of its enormous oil reserves. Gaddafi is no doubt a ruthless and awful dictator, but given our support for many ruthless and awful dictators around the world, it is hard to claim we are acting on moral authority.

Hopefully this military excursion will be short and relatively painless. It may even achieve some good results - but we should remember what our politicians told us about Afghanistan and Iraq - their words and the reality of the situation were two very different things indeed.