22
Mar

Why Libya 2011 is not Iraq 2003

Written on March 22, 2011 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Americas, International Conflict, Terrorism & Security, Middle East

By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst

A critique of the U.S. involvement in the military intervention in Libya that will no doubt be common in coming days is that the Obama administration is making a large error by embarking on a war with a third Muslim country, as if reversing Moammar Gadhafi’s momentum against the rebels will be a rerun of the debacle of the war against Saddam Hussein.

A further element of this view is that — whatever the outcome of the Libyan intervention — the United States’ standing in the Islamic world will once again be severely damaged by an attack on a Muslim nation.

There are, of course, some real similarities between Hussein and Gadhafi — both ruthless and erratic dictators of oil-rich regimes who fought bloody wars with their neighbors, brutalized their own populations, sought weapons of mass destruction, and sired some equally unattractive sons and heirs.

The déjà vu quality of the Libyan situation may help account for recent polls taken before the intervention which found that while Americans were either split or slightly in favor of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, most were opposed to stronger U.S. military action.

But the military intervention that President Obama authorized against Libya on Saturday — eight years to the day after President George W. Bush announced the commencement of “Operation Iraqi Freedom” — is a quite different operation than the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Beyond the obvious difference that Obama has not authorized the use of U.S. ground forces in Libya, there are several other differences to consider:

First, the Obama administration was handed a gift by the Arab League, which in its more than six-decade history has garnered a well-earned reputation as a feckless talking shop, but unusually took a stand one week ago by endorsing a no-fly zone over Libya.

That endorsement put the Arab League way out in front of the Obama administration, which was then dithering about whether to do anything of substance to help the rebels fighting Gadhafi. Read more…

Peter Bergen is the director of the national security studies program at the New America Foundation in Washington; a fellow at New York University’s Center on Law and Security; and CNN’s national security analyst. He is the author of the new book, “The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda.”

As published in www.cnn.com on March 21, 2011

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