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Posted at 6:12 AM ET, 03/ 9/2011

Libya, Krauthammer and the shadow of Iraq

By Anne Applebaum

In response to Charles Krauthammer's blog post, let me quote, once again, the first sentence of his column of March 4: "Voices around the world, from Europe to America to Libya, are calling for U.S. intervention to help bring down Moammar Gaddafi." And let me repeat: This is a fantasy. No voices anywhere, in any part of the world, are calling for U.S. intervention to bring down Moammar Gaddafi. There is no "strange moral inversion" or "hypocritical double standard" in the international debate about Libya. There is some discussion of aid and of a no-fly zone -- but only as a U.N. or NATO action, only as a last resort, only to prevent genocide (Rwanda is being cited as a precedent) and only if it can be done with as little unilateral "American" input as possible. Even though it might save them, at least some Libyans oppose even this: The slogan "No foreign intervention: Libyan people can manage it alone" has its own banner and its own Facebook page. This, not the question of whether we should send in the Marines -- and that was a joke, by the way, about the shores of Tripoli -- was the first point of my own column.

Here was the second point: Krauthammer chose to use the Libyan catastrophe as yet another justification for the war in Iraq. His column asserted that Iraq remains a source of inspiration for Libyans and others: "to the Middle Easterner, Iraq today is the only functioning Arab democracy," he wrote. Well, I supported the war in Iraq, I am glad Saddam Hussein is dead and I hope Iraqi democracy succeeds. But, unlike Krauthammer, I do not think that the war has been in any way helpful to the cause of democracy in Libya. On the contrary: It looms like a black shadow over everything Americans do and say in the Arab world.

Why do Egyptian democrats fear they will be stigmatized by U.S. aid? Why do Libyan rebels handcuff friendly British soldiers and send them out of the country? Because Iraq was a disastrous display of incompetence, not a splendid success. Krauthammer misread my column. I wasn't criticizing him for supporting an invasion of Libya. I was criticizing him because he still insists on misreading history. The promotion of democracy in the Arab world has been made far more difficult and dangerous by the war in Iraq. Why is that lesson so hard to learn?

By Anne Applebaum  | March 9, 2011; 6:12 AM ET
Categories:  Applebaum  | Tags:  Anne Applebaum  
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Next: The shadow of the Iraq War isn't as long as Applebaum claims

Comments

Kraut has a Hammer, and to him every problem is a nail.

Posted by: XRayD | March 9, 2011 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Libya presents a classic opportunity to assist local rebels without overt intervention by outside miitary forces. A few 'civilian' trainers from the USA or UK, a few shipments of critical arms and medical supplies, and let the rebels take it from there. Gadaffi's forces are not that formidable and if the rebels want it badly enough, freedom is theirs with just a little covert assistance.

Posted by: btlaw1 | March 9, 2011 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Bush planted the seed of democracy in Iraq. Obama can still kill the young plant but I hope he doesn't.

Obama thinks that democracy occurs by spontaneous generation. We are witnessing wildfires in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Iran, etc. etc. To think that democracy will grow from the ashes is naive. Unfortunately, naivety is one of Obama's major character traits.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | March 9, 2011 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Bush planted the seeds of democracy in Iraq. Let's hope Obama doesn't kill the young seedling.

Obama seems to believe democracy comes from spontaneous generation. There are wildfires burning in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Iran, etc, etc. Anyone who thinks democracy will magically spring from the ashes is naive. Unfortunately, naivety is one of Obama's major character traits.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | March 9, 2011 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps the turmoil in the mideast may finall scare Isreal to become a law abiding nation.
Why did they recently, without provacation, bomb a school being constructed in Palestine. Its about time the Zionists were brought down to size. They are the real terrorists in the mideast. Unfortunately the U.S. covers whatever they do. More Jews in New york than Israel. More fractured in its factionalist than most other countries that claim to be civilized. Go Arabs, teach the Jews how to abide by standards of decency and respect for others. If they were chosen it was for mischief, killing, they have done since they landed in the mideast for no one else wanted them. Why do we still give them money and arms while real Americans, lose pensions, homes, jobs. Because their are more jew lobbyists giving money to congress or use it to defeat that don't toe the Israeli line. Shame on America.

Posted by: gany1 | March 9, 2011 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Charles needs to experience "combat" before he makes any statement regarding Military intervention.He needs to be on the M.L.R.(main Line of Resistance) where the s-it is flying and it makes you try to get on the other side of your belt buckle.Arm chair generals are a dime a dozen and most have never seen a rifle.

Posted by: popeye10211 | March 9, 2011 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Krauthammer's column was truly an insult to commonsense and facts. The US intervention in Iraq has been a humanitarian disaster with only modest benefits in the current time-frame. And, yes, no arab country or group is calling for direct US intervention.

Posted by: aCitizen3 | March 9, 2011 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Anne: I would submit that the "black shadow" to which you refer regarding Iraq is one that the Obama Administration and enemies of America and Western-style democracy take pains to keep alive, much like the "Vietnam Syndrome" that so crippled American foreign policy in the mid to late '70s.

Bin Laden famously made a "strong horse, weak horse" analogy in arguing that the US is a paper tiger, and that ultimately people by nature prefer the strong horse.

Given the Obama Administration's lack of strong leadership (using strong words but always deferring to the "international community" when it comes to concrete action), is OBL's point valid today?

Posted by: Irishmike1 | March 9, 2011 10:49 AM | Report abuse

@ aCitizen: Do you really believe Iraq was better off under Saddam?!? Did you not see what he did to the Kurds? Do you really think he would not be at least as, probably more dangerous than the Mullahs of Iran? And more popular than Mubarak & Khadafy?

Talk about an insult to commonsense & facts!

(BTW: Would the circumstances in Libya be better today if Khadafy did not give up his WMD program in 2003 in the aftermath of the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom?)

Posted by: Irishmike1 | March 9, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Krauthammer, along with Thiessen, Rubin, and the host of neocon ranters that regularly write for the alleged "liberal elite" WaPo, fears nothing more than that the emerging "Obama doctrine" will succeed. Since the neocons consider the lives of American military folk to be mere tools of their utopian dreams the idea that change can happen in the Middle East and North Africa without massive American intervention is an affront to their control freak psychosis. Nothing worse than being ignored!

This is nothing new. The voices of the right always have the same vision of military capabilities...more, more more. Of course when they get it, as the Vietnam escalations showed, they criticise anyway if the other party is in power. The result then, of course, was that Nixon took power with a "secret plan" and then floundered about until the disaster. Now we are "winning" that war. Nike is winning the war. Perhaps all that was neede was patience...that is indeed what is needed now.

In last weeks column Krauthammer gloated that the hated Saddam was taken out in a "mere 3 weeks." Of course that time frame doesn't cover an extended and still existing occupation, numerous changes of generals and strategies and the loss of some 4000 American lives!

Posted by: mfkpadrefan | March 9, 2011 12:04 PM | Report abuse

gany1 - Your posting reeks of anti-Semitism. You equate Israel, Zionism and Jews into one cabal of evil which needs to be taught a lesson. You give vague accusations without any context outside of your own prejudicial views. More Jews in New York than in Israel? I don’t know what that has to do with anything, but it is a false statement. Demographers now estimate that close to half, if not more, of the world’s Jews live in Israel. You are using outdated data, as well as outdated prejudice.

Posted by: MeMyself1 | March 9, 2011 12:12 PM | Report abuse

gany1 - Your posting reeks of anti-Semitism. You equate Israel, Zionism and Jews into one cabal of evil which needs to be taught a lesson. You give vague accusations without any context outside of your own prejudicial views. More Jews in New York than in Israel? I don’t know what that has to do with anything, but it is a false statement. Demographers now estimate that close to half, if not more, of the world’s Jews live in Israel. You are using outdated data, as well as outdated prejudice.

Posted by: MeMyself1 | March 9, 2011 12:12 PM | Report abuse

kitchendragon50, you wrote: “Bush planted the seed of democracy in Iraq.”

Are you kidding? Iraq a democracy? Hardly. In the last elections, many opposition candidates were denied a place on the ballot. Others who remained on the ballot and won were denied their office. Prime Minister Maliki was voted out, but still got to keep his job thanks to Iranian interference in getting the Sadr opposition to create a united Iranian controlled Shiite government that marginalizes Sunnis and Kurds. Bush’s Iraq policy was a disaster.

Posted by: MeMyself1 | March 9, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

You go, girl!

Posted by: newsraptor | March 9, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry, no one is fooled by Charles, or his ilk.

Posted by: jckdoors | March 9, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Anne: "I supported the war in Iraq...."

That's when I stopped reading. Thanks for reminding us that you have no moral authority whatsoever to speak about military intervention.

Posted by: uh_huhh | March 9, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

The biggest "shadow in Iraq" is how glad the country was when the US got involved and helped topple Hussein. After that all went south when it came time to fill the void. Sects/tribes fighting each other with cries of "occupation" everywhere - the country became "us against them" and the US was in the middle as a lightning rod for an inability for sects and tribes to function as a nation. Oil producing regions (oppressed in the past) wanted to make up for lost time by saying the oil was on their land.

All goes well until the despot is gone - then "it's the responsibility" of whoever helped get rid of him to help the country get back on its feet. No one needs that anymore.

I hope the best for the Libyans and support help for a no-fly zone, but there are major long-term risks.

Posted by: chris76543 | March 10, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

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