Not So Quick on Libya

Muammar al-Gaddafi

Glenn Greenwald tears into progressives heralding the victory in Libya as a symbol of Obama's foreign policy wisdom:

I'm genuinely astounded at the pervasive willingness to view what has happened in Libya as some sort of grand triumph even though virtually none of the information needed to make that assessment is known yet, including: how many civilians have died, how much more bloodshed will there be, what will be needed to stabilize that country and, most of all, what type of regime will replace Gadaffi?  Does anyone know how many civilians have died in the NATO bombing of Tripoli and the ensuing battle?  Does anyone know who will dominate the subsequent regime?  Does it matter?  To understand how irrational and premature these celebrations are in the absence of that information, I urge everyone to read this brief though amazing compilation of U.S. media commentary from 2003 after U.S. forces entered Baghdad: in which The Liberal Media lavished Bush with intense praise for vanquishing Saddam, complained that Democrats were not giving the President the credit he deserved, and demanded that all those loser-war-opponents shamefully confess their error.  Sound familiar?

I think Greenwald is right here – while Libyans should rightfully be overjoyed at the toppling of Gaddafi, it is far too quick for everyone else to claim it as a victory of their own. We know the the US considered Gaddafi an ally two years ago and even wanted to sell him weapons. That was until he became unpopular with his people and his control over the country a major stability risk. Then, Gaddafi over night became public enemy no. 1 and the definition of absolute evil. The exact same thing happened with Saddam, who bought weapons from the US for years before it was decided he was no longer useful to American strategic interests.

Careful analysis should be done about our involvement in Libya. The public needs to know why we supported him two years ago, what changed so that we attacked him and exactly how much damage we did in the NATO led air campaign. Obama has been able to pass this off as a victory for his administration, but that is only because right now, things seem to have worked out for the best. If the post war situation is mishandled at even a fraction of the level seen in Iraq, then Libya is in for a very long period of instability and unrest. One might hope the Obama administration will exercise more intelligence when figuring out their role in reconstruction, but given the recent track record, it doesn't look promising. 

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  • http://profile.typepad.com/osborneink1 OsborneInk

    Greenwald is in the bargaining stage of grief. It’s amazing that people who talk of democratic revolution are the last ones to admit that is “what has happened” in Libya. Invoking the heady embedded journalism of Baghdad 2003 makes as much sense as talking about Mossadeq in 1953. Libya is not Iraq is not Iran.
    The weapons bit is a trap. If the US had been unwilling to sell arms to the “rehabilitated” dictator, people would be complaining at the unfairness. You know it’s true.