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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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)

    Follow Me on Twitter! https://twitter.com/#!/TarantinoDork

    by TarantinoDork on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 08:54:18 AM PDT

  •  all u.s. forces are not home (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Demi Moaned, jennyp

    and i'm not sure being a better war president is a framing we want. republicans are much worse war presidents, but there is nothing "better" about war.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 08:59:41 AM PDT

    •  I like the title change... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Laurence Lewis, ParkRanger

      ...to "more competent Commander in Chief."

      It's less about being better at waging war, and more about being wiser about when, how, and under what circumstances to engage in military action.

      There are certainly arguments to be made against the Libya action, but there's no doubt that Barack Obama handled it much more competently and wisely than George W. Bush handled any of the military actions that occurred under his watch.

      "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

      by JamesGG on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 09:14:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Agreed on framing. Changed. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jj32, Laurence Lewis

      True, all US Forces engaged in war are not home, certainly not those in Afghanistan.  But this President, faced with 140,000 troops deployed in Iraq upon entering office and the 'sudden crisis' of Libya...acted with responsibility, swiftness, and cool-headedness to end both wars. No Americans are deployed in combat in either country.

      And in Afghanistan, the drawdown in underway there as well. 10,000 came home at the end of 2011, an additional 23,000 will be home by the end of the Summer. And the drawdowns shall continue. The tide of war is receding there as well.

      Follow Me on Twitter! https://twitter.com/#!/TarantinoDork

      by TarantinoDork on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 09:24:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  we'll see (0+ / 0-)

        there are ongoing negotiations to keep forces in afghanistan beyond 2014, and just because the remaining troops in iraq aren't labeled combat doesn't mean they won't be involved in combat. there is a lot of history on that.

        the title is much better, and as indicated in my other comment i do think the overall theme can be very helpful, if used for the politics of not getting into more wars- the republicans will blunder us into disaster after disaster, obama and the democrats know when to say no.

        The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

        by Laurence Lewis on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 09:36:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I suppose you mean multi-lateralism (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Laurence Lewis, BigAlinWashSt

    ... when you write:

    The Libyan War was the hallmark of unilateralism, 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.
    Beyond that, I don't find much to celebrate here. Is our campaign slogan supposed to be:
    Vote Obama! He's even better than Bush!

    "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

    by Demi Moaned on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 09:00:11 AM PDT

    •  Corrected. Thanks. (0+ / 0-)

      As for my point, I guess it would be as Laurence said. As the old familiar faces call for unilateral war with Iran (and to a lesser extent Syria) we should remind ourselves that this President has proven himself responisble, deft, and capable at managing these crises to the best possible benefit of our interests and the world.  

      From smallscale hostage rescue missions to large endeavors preventing potential genocide.

      When he says let the sanctions and ratcheting pressure do their work on Iran, he has earned it from us to follow that lead.

      When a Republican rabblerouses for war, we should respond 'President Obama killed Bin Laden, safely brought our soldiers from Iraq, and lead the world to swift victory in Libya...if we are to defer to any one's leadership, it should be his.'

      Follow Me on Twitter! https://twitter.com/#!/TarantinoDork

      by TarantinoDork on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 09:31:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm less enthusiastic than you and Turkana (0+ / 0-)

        I think Obama is a superior stylist to Bush, but on the substance it's a very mixed bag, and in some ways he's markedly worse. I think the escalation of drone strikes is both a humanitarian nightmare and counterproductive to our professed aim of reducing terrorism.

        Nor am I quite convinced about his intentions in Iran.

        "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

        by Demi Moaned on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 10:45:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The bombing of Libya might be over, but the (0+ / 0-)

    war in Libya certainly isn't.  What struck me about the Libya war, besides the violation of the U.N. resolution, was the absolute bi-partisan support for taking down Gaddafi that was actually led by the same Neo-cons that took us into Iraq.  Strange brew.

    •  The NeoCons made Peace with Gaddafi (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG

      Lifted the sanctions, opened up Libya for business, coopted him into the Extraordinary Rendition program, made attempts to rehabilitate his image, and brushed it under the rug when he was caught still supporting terrorism with a 2004 plot to assassinate the Saudi Crown Prince.

      And when war actually came, it was hard right Republicans that took the lead in attacking the war. Boehner & Cantor trashed the mission. Foxnews tried to spin it into defacto support for Al Qaeda. Michele Bachmann even blamed US troops for all the civilians being massacred by Gaddafi.

      Hilariously, those Republicans who did support the war took every pain to never give Obama any credit, even if that meant shortchanging US forces. The day Gaddafi was finally killed, Marco Rubio got on the air to say it was thanks to British and French forces, not the US. He had to walk that back when it came to light a US Predator drone had been on the scene to track and disable Gaddafi's convoy.

      Ultimately, I don't care what the Neocons had to say on Libya. A maniacal dictator was threatening to level a city of a million people. Execution awaited all soldiers & officials who had defied his orders. Torture, rape, imprisonment, death and destruction threatened all else who stood in his way. And the Arab Spring movement that had been birthed in the streets of Tunis and Cairo risked death in the streets of Tripoli

      In concert with the world, President Obama acted to put a stop to it. He was successful and at minimum cost to lives & treasure. And in the process brought to justice a vicious terrorist responsible for killing thousands of people around the globe. And kept alive the spirit of the Arab Spring now threatening the rule of Bashar Assad and other dictators in the region.

      Follow Me on Twitter! https://twitter.com/#!/TarantinoDork

      by TarantinoDork on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 09:50:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not that I think that Obama did a bad job, but (0+ / 0-)

    an empty milk carton would be a more competent commander in chief than Bush. At least it wouldn't launch any stupid wars.

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