Today is March 19. In recent history, this date has become synonymous with the start date of two American wars. Iraq in 2003, and Libya one year ago today. Today's a fine day to remind ourselves of the circumstances of these wars...why they were fought, how they were fought, and how each President responsible handled the crises.
First we'll get out of the way how they were similar. Both were fought in the Arab World. Both began on March 19 of their respective years. Both achieved their primary aims of overthrowing and killing notoriously brutal dictators who'd been thorn in the sides of US foreign policy for decades. That is where the comparisons end.
Iraq War facts will be in italics, Libyan War facts will be in bold.
The Iraq War's casus belli was a pre-emptive move against Saddam Hussein's illegal weapons of mass destruction program and his ties to international terrorist groups.
The Libyan War's casus belli was to put a stop to Muammar Gaddafi's ongoing brutal crackdown on pro-democracy movement that had already claimed the lives of thousands of civilians.
The Iraq War was a unilateral operation by the United States, not endorsed by any international institutions or alliances.
The Libyan War was the hallmark of multi-lateralism, as an Obama-led diplomacy effort at the UN secured a tough Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force to protect Libyan civilians. In addition to the UN, NATO and the Arab League formally endorsed and participated in the mission.
The Iraq War was undertaken by US forces almost exclusively. The initial invasion comprised of 148,000 American troops, 45,000 British troops (who only engaged in major combat in the South of the country) and only small contingents from Australia & Poland. Over the course of the war, US forces took over 90% of combat casualties.
The Libyan War was a true joint effort. British, French, Italian, Canadian, Spanish & other tradiitional US allies as well as Arab allies like Qatar and the UAE supplied air & naval forces that engaged in combat.
The Iraq War saw US forces heavily committed to every single military mission.
The Libyan War saw US with enough support from allies to focus on those missions only we can handle. Heavy bombing, Tomahawk strikes, and air superiority in the early weeks, followed by surveillance, refueling, air defense suppression, and predator drones for the remaining months of the war.
The Iraq War was fought despite there being zero desire for cet war amongst Iraq's populace.
The Libyan War was only conducted after direct pleas for intervention from the Libyan people...both defected Libyan diplomats overseas and mass demonstrations in the streets of Libyan cities.
The Iraq War on the ground was fought almost exclusively by US forces.
The Libyan War on the ground was fought almost exclusively by Libyan freedom fighters with support from British, French, & Arab Special Forces soldiers. The only instance of US troops on the ground inside Libya was a quick & successful Marine rescue mission for two downed fighter pilots
The Iraq War did not result in the discovery of any WMD stockpiles or programs held by Saddam Hussein.
The Libyan War DID result in the discovery of an illegal stockpile of chemical weapons held by Gaddafi.
The Iraq War did not result in the disruption of links between Saddam Hussein and active international terrorist groups, as they didn't exist.
The Libyan War DID result in ending one of the most notorious state sponsors of terrorism of all time. Muammar Gaddafi directly responsible for the attack on Pan Am 103 and other terrorist attacks on Americans. He gave massive support for a wide range of terrorist groups from the IRA to Abu Nidal in the 80s, to more recently militant groups in Latin America and Africa.
The Iraq War resulted in years of lethal insurgency, sustained anti-American sentiment, an Al Qaeda resurgence, and a vicious Civil War that killed 100,000 civilians.
Postwar Libya has not resulted in anything remotely close to the level of bloodletting seen in Iraq. No suicide bombings, no new government death squads. Tensions & excesses exist, but even now the various militias are taking steps to step towards reconciliation and acceptance of the new Libyan government.
And to me, here are the Biggest comparisons we need to make.
The Iraq War lasted nearly 9 years.
The Libyan War lasted 7 months.
The Iraq War cost the United States a trillion dollars
The Libyan War cost the United States a billion dollars.
The Iraq War resulted in the death of 4,486 American deaths and over 20,000 combat injuries.
The Libyan War resulted in zero American or NATO deaths and only light injuries to the two aforementioned downed fighter pilots.
And here's the kicker.
The Iraq War resulted in the mass divergence of military & intelligence resources away from the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, allowing him to live and plot in peace thousands of miles away from where Bush said was the 'central fight in the War on Terror.'
While the Libyan war was still raging, President Obama ordered US forces into Pakistan and kill Osama Bin Laden. They were successful.
Oh, and I actually lied about where the similiarites between Iraq and Libya end. There's one more.
Both the Iraq & Libyan Wars were brought to conclusion, all US forces home, under President Barack Obama.
Those are the facts. They speak for themselves.