Albert Einstein saw insanity as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. As the events in Libya worsened, and an international coalition began airstrikes on the North African nation, many people, surprisingly, got the feeling they had seen this before.
The events in Libya during the past few may sound very much like the last time the U.S. entered into a conflict — the War in Iraq. Both cases included oil-rich nations led by dictators who have histories of war, instability, and cruelty. Even the timing adds up. The international enforcement of a Libyan no-fly zone happened nearly eight years after U.S. invaded Iraq. These facts alone will make many believe this intervention will turn into Iraq 2.0. However, the differences between these two conflicts are apparent, and the reasoning and response during the Libyan intervention show what has changed in a post-Iraq world.
First and foremost, the situations leading up to the conflicts in Libya and Iraq were completely different. As the Libyan intervention started, the country was split in civil war between Col. Muammar Qaddafi and his own people. Qaddafi promised “no mercy” to those who rebelled against him, and was threatening many of his own civilians’ lives. His actions prompted the United Nations to draft a resolution against him and to act on it. While Saddam Hussein was tyrannical to the bone, his actions (presumed or otherwise) were not why the U.S. invaded Iraq.
This intervention has also shown major changes from how the U.S. has handled foreign policy in the past. In this case, international support has been widespread. Of all people, it was the French, not Americans, who led the way in the intervention approved by the U.N. Security Council. Other nations and regions, including the Arab League, also support the military action over much of Libya, Compared to the struggle to get almost no nations to go into Iraq with the U.S. and Britain, this semi-complete showing of Western and Middle Eastern unity is remarkable.
Because of this international support, the U.S. has taken a supporting role in this intervention. While President Obama, in a Mar. 29 speech, said he refused to stand by while the Libyan people suffered and cried for help, he also refused to force the U.S into another long term, Iraq-like military engagement. He urged Qaddafi to step down, encouraging a peaceful transition of power instead of threatening unilateral American action against Qaddafi. There is no “axis of evil” in the speech, and thank goodness, no threats of WMDs. In addition to that, the Obama administration said it will not currently consider putting troops on Libyan soil and is attempting to lessen the American role in the conflict. In this case, Obama is willing to let other nations do much of the work in this intervention, while the U.S fulfills the roles as they present themselves. His current policy is a welcome change of pace from the previous administration, where it seemed international cooperation was some type of taboo.
The changed policies have, so far, been effective in establishing and enforcing a no-fly zone. No matter what happens in Libya, at least an international coalition will be ready in case something happens. This concept of a group of nations, each with a limited and different role, marks a change that is hopefully here to stay. Ideally, coalitions like this can help lead the world away from the unilateral insanity of the last few decades.
Brian Wilson, Vision managing editor, is sophomore journalism major.