Robert Burns of the Associated Press today suggested that the “limited military intervention” style of the Libya War is going to replace the massive occupation style of Iraq, where the US has spent eight and a half years and conservatively $800 billion.
Which of course ignores the obvious option of not intervening at all. But even if we throw that away, as “experts” so often do, and assume the US is going to embark on adventures, is the “Libya method” a hope that we’ve at least found a way to do it without bankrupting ourselves?
Not really. Instead of a change in tactics Libya is really just a rebranding of the overall notion of intervention onto a more recent and not-yet-entirely-calamitous conflict in the hopes of convincing the public that America has finally found the “right way” to fight wars.
But if one recalls the Iraq War, the period around the invasion was also spun as a runaway success, and it wasn’t until the months turned into years that it became clear to the pubic that something was rotten with the plan.
The US did not invade Iraq with the plan of occupying it for eight and a half years, officials were assuring us it would be over in a matter of weeks. Libya too was supposed to be over much sooner, and officials are still looking for ways to get the US more and more involved in propping up the new regime.
Iraq as the “bad war” special case has the benefit of hindsight, with the lion’s share of its costs (at least one hopes) firmly behind us. $800+ billion and well over a million dead to replace an aging dictator with a fresh new one. It was a bad bargain, to be sure.
But let us not too hastily compare it to a fictional “good war” example in Libya, where $1.1 billion and a few months has netted us massive celebrations. Even if the Gadhafi regime is gone the Libyan War is far from over, with an ugly new civil war looking to assert itself in the ashes of the old one, and US officials chomping at the bit to escalate American involvement. Give it another eight years, and the US involvement in Libya could look far more costly.
And realistically, the Libya “strategy” is really the same as the Iraq “strategy” or the more recent Uganda “strategy,” which is to throw the military at a situation without any exit plan in place. That one already blew up in our collective faces and the others haven’t yet is no reason to believe a lesson is learned. Indeed, the fact that it is being presented as such suggests it is a lesson far from learned.