On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Professor Alan J. Kuperman of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project explained the current mess in Libya with this absurd analogy: “What George W. Bush did to Iraq is the same thing that President Barack Obama did to Libya. That is, he took a state that was stable, that was an ally in the war on terror, and went in with a military intervention, and destroyed the state.”
There’s nothing especially wrong with Kuperman’s comparison other than everything.
Consider the gross dissimilarities between Obama’s actions in Libya and Bush’s actions in Iraq:
- In spring 2011, there was no national consensus for Obama to conduct air raids to support the Libyan rebels. In contrast, President Bush had gone through the painstaking process of allowing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to ignore repeated United Nations Security Council resolutions requiring him to undergo weapons inspections, all while building a coalition of scores of nations that sent troops to help fight Hussein and a strong majority of supportive Senators in both parties including Hillary Clinton. This followed years of growing international concern over Hussein’s having violated dozens of similar UN resolutions.
- Obama’s unilateral actions led an outraged House to pass three bipartisan resolutions, the first condemning him for failing to provide a compelling rationale for the air strikes and forbidding him from continuing to do so without a clear justification, the second calling for a withdrawal of U.S. air and naval forces from Libya, and the third defunding the Libyan conflict. It also led to a bipartisan lawsuit against the President led by three Democrats and seven Republicans. In contrast, Bush sought and received a formal, comprehensive authorization for the war in Iraq before sending troops in.
- Obama didn’t win the conflict in Libya, whose regime change was a byproduct of the trendy but disastrous Arab Spring. The conflict’s greatest, most superficial moment of triumph came when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lamely chanted of Moammar Gadhafi, “We came, we saw, he died!” Libya’s supposedly moderate rebels turned out to be radical jihadists, and now Libya is such a mess that counterterrorism experts call it “the Somalia of the Mediterranean.” In contrast, after an unfortunate slow start, Bush ordered the 2007 troop surge that halted insurgent violence and left Iraq with its first-ever free elections. (By the way, Libya only became an ally in the war on terror because of Bush’s success in Iraq.)
- Obama toyed with other Middle Eastern nations, suggesting by his actions that he would help neighboring moderate rebels such as Syria’s, whom he ultimately let down. In contrast, Bush focused on Iraq, following through on his commitment to the Iraqi people to win a war he had started, and leaving in place and augmenting the troops he had placed in Iraq until the insurgents had fled and stability had been restored.
- Obama didn’t leave Libya a peaceful, stable democracy. Libya got into worse hands than Gadhafi’s after Obama’s air strikes. After spreading through Syria and grabbing large swaths of Iraqi territory, ISIS is now capturing Libyan territory and staging mass beheadings of Egyptian Coptic Christians to show their dominance in the region. In contrast, Bush left Iraq a stable democracy with free elections, and Iraq become a model for democratic governance throughout the Middle East.
- The media didn’t harp incessantly on Obama’s disastrous mess in Libya, why he should be convicted of war crimes, why he should be impeached, etc. Filmmakers didn’t shoot movies fantasizing about his assassination; protestors didn’t hang him in effigy. In contrast, the media and leftist agitators did all of this and more to Bush, undermining his and the U.S.’s authority to take decisive action to bring the Iraq War to a successful finish.
- Obama won’t suffer the spectacle of his successor losing the peace in Libya and turning it into a hellhole more dangerous than before. That’s because Obama already intervened and turned Libya into a hellhole even more dangerous than before. In contrast, Bush’s successor (Obama) failed to push for a status of forces agreement that would have allowed us to keep troops in Iraq, and gleefully plucked every last one of them from the country while making a big, Bush-taunting spectacle of it. Then ISIS moved in and stole U.S.-supplied weapons from a terrified, unsupported Iraqi army. Now Obama is stuck trying to figure out how to fight a group even more deadly than al-Qaeda without officially sending U.S. combat troops back in.
The only thing Libya and Iraq have in common is that both were “wars of choice.” Iraq wasn’t the perfect choice after 9/11—Iran would have been—but Bush made the most of his imperfect policy decision. But Libya was one of the poorest choices Obama could have made. And the poorest choice of all in the entire war on terror was Obama’s decision to loudly proclaim his intention to remove all troops from Iraq and leave it completely undefended.
I take it back: The Libyan and Iraqi failures have one other thing in common. They’re both Obama’s fault.
- Obama Admits Error In Libya, Denies Same Error in Iraq (dailycaller.com)
- Lizza says Obama has bombed more nations than Bush (politifact.com)
- Only NBC Mentions Criticism of Obama Following ISIS Expansion Into Libya (newsbusters.org)
- Don’t Blame Bush for Al Qaeda in Iraq, Blame Obama (frontpagemag.com)
- Kerry: Removal of Saddam, Gaddafi Not to Blame for Crises in Iraq, Libya (cnsnews.com)