April 2, 2011
What a Difference a War Can MakeBy Anthony W. Hager
How times have changed! The United States isn't the imperialistic, blood-for-oil war machine that it was just a few years ago. We've shed the "I ride alone" image and become acceptable in the world community. Every charge levied against the United States following the Iraq invasion is yesterday's news and America can again wage a just war. All we needed was a change of party at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Remember the arguments against President Bush's decision to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein? Those arguments aren't heard today, now that a Democrat administration has led us to war in Libya. Oh, I know President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton don't consider the Libyan no-fly zone a war, but it is a war. When bombs are dropping, missiles are launching, guns are firing, and people are dying, that's a war. No question about it. Ask any Korea or Vietnam veteran to describe a "police action."
While hardline pacifists are stridently against the administration's "rush to war" in Libya, they have gained little traction compared to their efforts to demonize the Iraq War. Dennis Kucinich, Code Pink, Michael Moore, and the usual culprits are screaming. But few among the Democrat leadership and their media allies seem to care. The reason is that their opposition to the Iraq War was political, not principled. Now, to borrow from Jeremiah Wright, the Democrats' chickens have come home to roost. Factually, George Bush was on much firmer ground with Iraq than Obama is with Libya.
Bush's detractors accused him of rushing America to war with no clear objective. Actually, Bush's agenda was quite clear. The United States would depose Saddam Hussein and then help Iraq hold elections and establish a constitution. Those goals were accomplished. Admittedly, not all subsequent events unfolded as planned. Iraq's elections produced Shiite majorities, which is the same ideology that holds sway in Iran, and their constitution amounts to Sharia Law. But each goal was reached.
President Obama has no clear objective in Libya. First he said Col. Gaddafi must relinquish power. Then he said Gaddafi could remain in control if he promised to play according to Hoyle. Obama has since reversed course again, and Gaddafi must go. We're unsure of our objective, if indeed we have one. Even identifying our enemy is harder than in Iraq. Gaddafi is a loon no doubt, an unpredictable despot with a terrorist history. But the rebel forces we aid in Libya are linked to al-Qaeda and could prove worse than Gaddafi.
For a proper perspective on our current alliance, look at World War II. What if America had fought Nazi Germany in Europe while joining forces with them on the Russian Front? The scenario sounds ridiculous. But that's what we're doing with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Libya.
Bush was accused of acting unilaterally in Iraq. But his coalition for the Iraq War included more countries than Obama's coalition in Libya. What's more, Bush built his allies. Obama joined a work in progress and is quite comfortable passing the leadership role to NATO.
Did Iraq attack America? According to Democrats and their media lapdogs, Iraq did not. However, reality intercedes with their convenient fantasizing. Iraq did attack the United States and our interests. Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait, a move outside their borders that threatened international trade shipping routes. Hussein agreed to cease-fire terms upon Iraq's expulsion from Kuwait. He violated those terms flagrantly and, yes, attacked American forces directly. No-fly zones were established over Iraq as part of the cease-fire. Iraq, however, fired on American aircraft patrolling those zones, directly violating the agreement.
Gaddafi's government hasn't directly attacked U.S. interests in years. In fact, in the last ten years the Libyan government acknowledged responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and agreed to restitution for the victims, renounced terrorism (supposedly) and abandoned its nuclear and chemical weapons program. Furthermore, Bush's critics charged him with involving America in Iraq's civil war. So what's happening in Libya? Vacation Bible School? Obama bears more guilt for interceding in a sovereign civil war than did Bush.
The Iraq War began without congressional authorization. Or did it? Congress adopted a resolution granting President Bush the authority to use force, at his discretion, to combat terrorism wherever he determined it existed. And Congress authorized President Bush to use force directly against Iraq to ensure compliance with resolutions outlined in the Gulf War cease-fire pact.
The Obama administration simply began dropping bombs and firing missiles into Libya. No consent was sought from Congress. No strategy is evident and there's no meaningful definition of victory. All we really know is that American forces are preventing a humanitarian disaster in Libya where a mad dictator is killing his subjects. Wasn't the same true in Iraq?
Does anyone honestly believe Saddam Hussein didn't kill his own people? Tell that to the Kurds, upon whom he used chemical weapons. Tell that to the victims of the torture chambers U.S. troops uncovered after Hussein's fall. What's more, if humanitarianism serves as criterion for American air strikes, the bombs should soon fall on Sudan, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, North Korea, and a host of other unruly nations and authoritarian regimes.
The arguments used to implicate Bush as an international war criminal should also apply to Obama's decision to bomb Libya. I'll concede that America entered Iraq with some unrealistic expectations, but we weren't meddling in their affairs. Hussein's actions demanded our response. But even Robert Gates has found no compelling U.S. interest in warring with Libya.
Nothing mentioned thus far should promote sympathy for Muammar Gaddafi. He is a despot and an enemy of the United States. I'll lose no sleep if he disappears beneath a Tomahawk missile. I also support our troops' safety and their mission's success. Alas, there's no appearance of a mission to support, no clear objective. The rebels receiving our support may be a worse enemy than Gaddafi; Obama has abandoned our military leadership role to NATO, bypassed Congress, and surrendered our sovereign authority to wage war to the United Nations.
The outrage that greeted the hawkish Bush has dissipated. The peace marchers who were the darlings of dissent when Bush was the target are today as irrelevant as Keith Olbermann. Few people, if any, are denouncing American imperialism or Obama's military-industrial complex. Obama hasn't been labeled a Nazi, and I've yet to see the first effigy go up in flames.
What a difference a war can make!
Anthony W. Hager has authored more than 300 articles for various newspapers, periodicals, and websites. Contact him via his website, www.therightslant.com.