Victory in Libya

It looks like the Libyan rebels, with the help of NATO planes and American bombs, have overthrown the Gaddafi regime.  All that remains is to find the guy.   No Americans were killed, the Libyans themselves did the heavy lifting to free themselves, and the terrorist-supporting dictator who has been the West’s nemesis for decades is out of power.  Does this vindicate President Obama’s stated policy of “leading from behind”?  You would think conservatives would celebrate an American victory.  And that liberals  would celebrate one of the administration’s success stories.   But we aren’t hearing much from anyone.   Not even the British and the French, who were the ones who went into combat.  Is everyone afraid of another “mission accomplished” moment, after which everything turns very bad?  Is it that Republicans don’t want to give the President any credit, while the Democrats, being peaceniks at heart, are ashamed of President Obama’s war?  Or is everyone so sick of all of these post-9/11 wars that the martial spirit has died out?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Ron Jung

    I don’t think anyone knows what Libya will get. It could end up worse. Also, Gaddafi, by and through pressure from the US, got rid of it’s nuclear weapons program. Is this how the US will treat those who cooperate with us?

  • Ron Jung

    I don’t think anyone knows what Libya will get. It could end up worse. Also, Gaddafi, by and through pressure from the US, got rid of it’s nuclear weapons program. Is this how the US will treat those who cooperate with us?

  • WebMonk

    Leading from WAY behind. This isn’t a slam against Obama, but there is precious little that he did in this regard – most of the force for taking (relatively) strong action came from France.

    The US provided a lot of the funding through NATO, but Sarkozy was the main driving force behind NATO taking this action, and France even bore an outsized portion of the work/cost. They were even the ones who were selling weapons to the rebels which was just as necessary to them winning the war as the bombing.

    This was still a horribly executed “war” in that it was a minimal effort war even within the narrow limit of bombing support. Tens of thousands of people died that wouldn’t have died if the bombing had been carried out to a fuller extent. As it was, the bombing was enough to keep Gaddafi some headaches, but not enough to seriously stop him. What brought him down were the weapons given to the rebels and the tenacity of the rebels. The bombing slowed down Gadaffi and helped the rebels last a little longer, then the weapons gave them the firepower necessary to survive a bit longer, embargoes against Quadaffi dropped his funding, but all that stuff just prolonged the life of the rebel movement (which was necessary) but it did nothing to shorten the war.

    This was had a good outcome (more or less) but that was only partly due to NATO’s involvement, the NATO involvement was definitely sub-optimal, and the US was very much an also-participated in the effort. Obama had little to do with this, other than getting behind the action once it was already being driven forward by France and others.

    Like I said, that’s not a slam against Obama, but it is one reason why Obama doesn’t really get much credit or criticism for this.

  • WebMonk

    Leading from WAY behind. This isn’t a slam against Obama, but there is precious little that he did in this regard – most of the force for taking (relatively) strong action came from France.

    The US provided a lot of the funding through NATO, but Sarkozy was the main driving force behind NATO taking this action, and France even bore an outsized portion of the work/cost. They were even the ones who were selling weapons to the rebels which was just as necessary to them winning the war as the bombing.

    This was still a horribly executed “war” in that it was a minimal effort war even within the narrow limit of bombing support. Tens of thousands of people died that wouldn’t have died if the bombing had been carried out to a fuller extent. As it was, the bombing was enough to keep Gaddafi some headaches, but not enough to seriously stop him. What brought him down were the weapons given to the rebels and the tenacity of the rebels. The bombing slowed down Gadaffi and helped the rebels last a little longer, then the weapons gave them the firepower necessary to survive a bit longer, embargoes against Quadaffi dropped his funding, but all that stuff just prolonged the life of the rebel movement (which was necessary) but it did nothing to shorten the war.

    This was had a good outcome (more or less) but that was only partly due to NATO’s involvement, the NATO involvement was definitely sub-optimal, and the US was very much an also-participated in the effort. Obama had little to do with this, other than getting behind the action once it was already being driven forward by France and others.

    Like I said, that’s not a slam against Obama, but it is one reason why Obama doesn’t really get much credit or criticism for this.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Yes, let’s see what emerges in Libya before we look at this as a victory.

    Look at what is emerging in Egypt.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Yes, let’s see what emerges in Libya before we look at this as a victory.

    Look at what is emerging in Egypt.

  • Peter S.

    Let’s not forget the NATO troops and CIA operatives who, we now learn after the fact, have been on the ground the whole time.

  • Peter S.

    Let’s not forget the NATO troops and CIA operatives who, we now learn after the fact, have been on the ground the whole time.

  • Kirk

    If I was for military interventionism, this would be the type of intervention that I prefer. Frankly, I’m glad the rebels overthrew Gaddafi and I’m glad no Americans were killed in the conflict. I’m glad we’re not “binging freedom” to Libya by trying to establish a puppet regime to “promote stability” in the region. I’m glad we won’t be mired there for the next decade, spending billions to support a massive military infrastructure designed to keep the peace. But I’m not really for military interventionism.

    What I found disturbing about this whole episode was the total lack of accountability in the whole conflict. One day we’re not bombing Libya and the next day we are. The people were never really told why, the President failed to notify Congress about it and Congress was perfectly happy (granted, with one little bluff) to let the President go on his merry way. My perception is that this didn’t faze the public one bit. It’s sad that Americans are so detached that they’re willing to tolerate the seemingly wanton deployment of our military when we’ve got two other wars on, one of which is going terribly.

  • Kirk

    If I was for military interventionism, this would be the type of intervention that I prefer. Frankly, I’m glad the rebels overthrew Gaddafi and I’m glad no Americans were killed in the conflict. I’m glad we’re not “binging freedom” to Libya by trying to establish a puppet regime to “promote stability” in the region. I’m glad we won’t be mired there for the next decade, spending billions to support a massive military infrastructure designed to keep the peace. But I’m not really for military interventionism.

    What I found disturbing about this whole episode was the total lack of accountability in the whole conflict. One day we’re not bombing Libya and the next day we are. The people were never really told why, the President failed to notify Congress about it and Congress was perfectly happy (granted, with one little bluff) to let the President go on his merry way. My perception is that this didn’t faze the public one bit. It’s sad that Americans are so detached that they’re willing to tolerate the seemingly wanton deployment of our military when we’ve got two other wars on, one of which is going terribly.

  • Cincinnatus

    Western involvement in this war was 100% optional.

  • Cincinnatus

    Western involvement in this war was 100% optional.

  • Cincinnatus

    It also proves, by the way, that NATO is an utterly superfluous organization that, in the absence of its Cold War context, wanders about the globe seeking whom it may destroy–for no particular reason.

  • Cincinnatus

    It also proves, by the way, that NATO is an utterly superfluous organization that, in the absence of its Cold War context, wanders about the globe seeking whom it may destroy–for no particular reason.

  • Tom Hering

    As far as the American public goes, I don’t think we care about our government’s adventures unless we have boots on the ground. Then we care more about the troops’ welfare than we do about policies or outcomes. Libya? Whatever.

  • Tom Hering

    As far as the American public goes, I don’t think we care about our government’s adventures unless we have boots on the ground. Then we care more about the troops’ welfare than we do about policies or outcomes. Libya? Whatever.

  • SKPeterson

    It also shows up the vacuousness of our foreign policy and “national interests.” We’re supposedly for democracy in the Middle East, but when it breaks out spontaneously or organically from the ground up (i.e., it’s democratic), our foreign policy apparatus has no credible response but responds haphazardly in a befuddled fog – it’s used to being able to impose democracy on people “who really do want this, even though they haven’t asked for it” and then responding haphazardly in a befuddled fog of war with bullets and bombs.

    Though it is too soon to tell, we may actually come out ahead in Libya. The Libyan people took a some outside help (similar to our reliance upon the French 200+ years ago) but did the heavy lifting themselves. They essentially “own” their revolution free and somewhat clear; they won’t need American troops in place “ensuring stability” for the next 10+ years. Instead, we can now congratulate them, recognize some commonalities and provide the requisite moral support to the Libyan people.

  • SKPeterson

    It also shows up the vacuousness of our foreign policy and “national interests.” We’re supposedly for democracy in the Middle East, but when it breaks out spontaneously or organically from the ground up (i.e., it’s democratic), our foreign policy apparatus has no credible response but responds haphazardly in a befuddled fog – it’s used to being able to impose democracy on people “who really do want this, even though they haven’t asked for it” and then responding haphazardly in a befuddled fog of war with bullets and bombs.

    Though it is too soon to tell, we may actually come out ahead in Libya. The Libyan people took a some outside help (similar to our reliance upon the French 200+ years ago) but did the heavy lifting themselves. They essentially “own” their revolution free and somewhat clear; they won’t need American troops in place “ensuring stability” for the next 10+ years. Instead, we can now congratulate them, recognize some commonalities and provide the requisite moral support to the Libyan people.

  • Cincinnatus

    Also, if we are concerned about democracy and justice in Libya, why not in Syria, Bahrain, or Saudi Arabia, not even to speak of Iran, where popular revolts have recently been crushed or are being crushed?

  • Cincinnatus

    Also, if we are concerned about democracy and justice in Libya, why not in Syria, Bahrain, or Saudi Arabia, not even to speak of Iran, where popular revolts have recently been crushed or are being crushed?

  • Cincinnatus

    In reply to Peter S.@4, we can now be assured that in a couple decades, Libya will emerge as a regional basketcase opposed to American interests, since this is what almost always happens in the wake of CIA involvement/meddling.

  • Cincinnatus

    In reply to Peter S.@4, we can now be assured that in a couple decades, Libya will emerge as a regional basketcase opposed to American interests, since this is what almost always happens in the wake of CIA involvement/meddling.

  • michael henry

    The left would never say anything good about America, so will not bask in any perceived success. The right would never give any credit to Obama or the left, even if it were true, and so will remain silent.

    Who were our friends may well be enemies later, witness Iran, Iraq, etc. I wonder what the price of gas will do now….?

  • michael henry

    The left would never say anything good about America, so will not bask in any perceived success. The right would never give any credit to Obama or the left, even if it were true, and so will remain silent.

    Who were our friends may well be enemies later, witness Iran, Iraq, etc. I wonder what the price of gas will do now….?

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I’m still trying to figure out why we were over there to begin with..

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I’m still trying to figure out why we were over there to begin with..

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @8

    Yup

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @8

    Yup

  • The Jones

    Now, I’m happy about this event, but I don’t feel any American Pride attached to the moment. Every bit of “Yeah! We won!” inside of me is met with the immediate realization of “Oh wait, we really didn’t do anything.”

    But strangely, even though we didn’t really do anything, we found a way to spend lots of money on it and have a constitutional showdown over executive powers. Way to win one for the team.

  • The Jones

    Now, I’m happy about this event, but I don’t feel any American Pride attached to the moment. Every bit of “Yeah! We won!” inside of me is met with the immediate realization of “Oh wait, we really didn’t do anything.”

    But strangely, even though we didn’t really do anything, we found a way to spend lots of money on it and have a constitutional showdown over executive powers. Way to win one for the team.

  • Patrick Kyle

    I know a man who owns a company that does a lot of work in the Middle East and Afghanistan, among other places. He ran into a friend of mine back here in the states and told him that he had just been over in the Middle East, getting his employees out of there and back home. He said the situation there is greatly deteriorating and it was unsafe for his people. He said the whole region is falling apart and its a really terrible place to be now and for the foreseeable future.

  • Patrick Kyle

    I know a man who owns a company that does a lot of work in the Middle East and Afghanistan, among other places. He ran into a friend of mine back here in the states and told him that he had just been over in the Middle East, getting his employees out of there and back home. He said the situation there is greatly deteriorating and it was unsafe for his people. He said the whole region is falling apart and its a really terrible place to be now and for the foreseeable future.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus:

    @10: That’s a specious argument. Just because we can’t or don’t intervene doesn’t mean we don’t care. Whaile it maght be nice to have the power to wave a magic wand and right every wrong in the world, we don’t have that power. We sometimes have enough power to intervene in a few individual cases. And that means we have to pick and choose whom we will help. So we will generally help only when other policy consideratins are satisfied (i.e., there’s something in it for us). Virtually every war this country has fought has been more or less “optional”. And why stop with Iran. There’s injustice in China and Myanmar, and parts of Latin America too.

    @11: This is a pretty good response to Kirk @5. The Libyan rebels own this regime change. We spent money, but didn’t lose any blood, so the rebels, whoever they turn out to be, will remake Libya as they see fit. And that will probably be a basket-case as you say.

    @2&15:
    But I don’t think it’s correct to say that Obama did nothing, and therefore deserves neither credit nor blame. Libyan blood and French effort notwithstanding, if Obama did not do what he actually did, this revolt would have failed. Obama is, therefore, very responsible for whatever comes next. Go0d or bad.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus:

    @10: That’s a specious argument. Just because we can’t or don’t intervene doesn’t mean we don’t care. Whaile it maght be nice to have the power to wave a magic wand and right every wrong in the world, we don’t have that power. We sometimes have enough power to intervene in a few individual cases. And that means we have to pick and choose whom we will help. So we will generally help only when other policy consideratins are satisfied (i.e., there’s something in it for us). Virtually every war this country has fought has been more or less “optional”. And why stop with Iran. There’s injustice in China and Myanmar, and parts of Latin America too.

    @11: This is a pretty good response to Kirk @5. The Libyan rebels own this regime change. We spent money, but didn’t lose any blood, so the rebels, whoever they turn out to be, will remake Libya as they see fit. And that will probably be a basket-case as you say.

    @2&15:
    But I don’t think it’s correct to say that Obama did nothing, and therefore deserves neither credit nor blame. Libyan blood and French effort notwithstanding, if Obama did not do what he actually did, this revolt would have failed. Obama is, therefore, very responsible for whatever comes next. Go0d or bad.

  • Lou

    “Is everyone afraid of another “mission accomplished” moment, after which everything turns very bad? ” Yep. Like others have said, we won’t know the real outcome for some time. If we start gloating, it certainly won’t help any chance of democracy or stability.

    It also proves, by the way, that NATO has a viable role when other allies step up and shoulder their share of the burden, such as France did in this mission. When NATO members work together to dispose ruthless dictators (Khadafy, Milosevec, etc..), they have shown that together they can achieve fairly swift results with low impact and a low long term footprint.

  • Lou

    “Is everyone afraid of another “mission accomplished” moment, after which everything turns very bad? ” Yep. Like others have said, we won’t know the real outcome for some time. If we start gloating, it certainly won’t help any chance of democracy or stability.

    It also proves, by the way, that NATO has a viable role when other allies step up and shoulder their share of the burden, such as France did in this mission. When NATO members work together to dispose ruthless dictators (Khadafy, Milosevec, etc..), they have shown that together they can achieve fairly swift results with low impact and a low long term footprint.

  • fws

    We should be more for the Rule of Law (in contrast to arbitrary rule by decree) .

    Democracy may, or may not be, the best means to that end. Hopefully , some form of representative, republican , constitutional government that we call “democracy” will evolve in time. But the immediate goal should be the promotion of the Rule of Law.

    Also I am not sure that we should not mind our own business. I am not sure why we need to do anything but say we support whatever looks like the rule of Law.

  • fws

    We should be more for the Rule of Law (in contrast to arbitrary rule by decree) .

    Democracy may, or may not be, the best means to that end. Hopefully , some form of representative, republican , constitutional government that we call “democracy” will evolve in time. But the immediate goal should be the promotion of the Rule of Law.

    Also I am not sure that we should not mind our own business. I am not sure why we need to do anything but say we support whatever looks like the rule of Law.

  • http://quiacreeds.blogspot.com/ David Oberdieck

    Here is my two cents as to rational reasons why someone might object to the Libyan war:
    1. Libya was not a threat to us.
    2. Libya gave up nuclear ambitions and was more cooperative in international relations with West.
    3. There is no guarantee that a new government will be better than the old. Better a dictator than an Islamic republic.
    4. There is no guarantee there will be a viable government following the war.
    5. President went to UN and did not seek congressional approval.
    6. We are already in two wars so that this only adds stress to finances and military.
    7. We need to be world players by the use of soft power rather than by the use of force.
    8. Use force only when it absolutely necessary in defense of homeland or of vital interests.

  • http://quiacreeds.blogspot.com/ David Oberdieck

    Here is my two cents as to rational reasons why someone might object to the Libyan war:
    1. Libya was not a threat to us.
    2. Libya gave up nuclear ambitions and was more cooperative in international relations with West.
    3. There is no guarantee that a new government will be better than the old. Better a dictator than an Islamic republic.
    4. There is no guarantee there will be a viable government following the war.
    5. President went to UN and did not seek congressional approval.
    6. We are already in two wars so that this only adds stress to finances and military.
    7. We need to be world players by the use of soft power rather than by the use of force.
    8. Use force only when it absolutely necessary in defense of homeland or of vital interests.

  • Michael Z.

    Another victory for France.

    “France, helping pesky revolutionaries since 1778.”

  • Michael Z.

    Another victory for France.

    “France, helping pesky revolutionaries since 1778.”

  • Bob

    It’s Obama’s fault.

  • Bob

    It’s Obama’s fault.

  • SKPeterson

    I am unilaterally declaring that I have achieved victory in Libya without sending any troops, spending any money, or even paying very much attention. Now give me an oil concession!

  • SKPeterson

    I am unilaterally declaring that I have achieved victory in Libya without sending any troops, spending any money, or even paying very much attention. Now give me an oil concession!


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