LobeLog on Facebook   LobeLog on Facebook

Trump’s Iran Policy Is More about Rollback than Nukes

by Joshua Landis The renewed US offensive against Iran is not so much about its...

Message no image

Published on August 23rd, 2011 | by Daniel Luban


Too Early to Claim Vindication in Libya

Has the apparent overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in Tripoli vindicated NATO’s decision to back the rebels? Notwithstanding the flood of facile commentary claiming vindication over Libya war skeptics, it remains too early to tell. And although I myself was (very hesitantly) in favor of aiding the rebels in the days when Qaddafi’s forces were closing in on Benghazi, it’s worth remembering that many of the skeptics’ reasons for opposing the Libya campaign had little to do with the question of whether or not it would ultimately bring down Qaddafi.

The fact that the war helped put Obama’s seal of approval on the American practice of going to war surreptitiously, without congressional approval or public accountability — as well as the possibility that perceived success in Libya might make the U.S. more reckless in intervening in the future — are both potential pitfalls that have little to do with the outcome of action on the ground. And that’s before we even speculate about whether the rebels’ victory will prove to be conclusive, or what Libya’s next government will look like.

This is not to deny that the fall of Qaddafi’s regime is good news — it is. But we should be very cautious about drawing sweeping conclusions or claiming vindication at this early stage, particularly in light of the disasters that followed the fall of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban.

There is, however, one line of argument that I think we can confidently say has been discredited by the recent events in Tripoli. This is the argument — particularly common among leading neoconservative hawks who wanted to criticize Obama without lending support to “isolationism” — that the apparent stalemate in Libya demonstrated that Obama had been insufficiently assertive, and should have opted for a more forceful intervention. (This was also the position of the more hawkish Republican presidential candidates like Romney, Perry, and Santorum.)

At the moment, it seems clear that the upside of an American intervention with a heavier footprint, namely the possibility of shortening the war by a few months, would have been far outweighed by the downside. Not only would such an intervention have put U.S. troops on the ground at risk, it also would have risked discrediting Qaddafi’s opponents: imagine how much less legitimacy the post-Qaddafi government of Libya would enjoy if Tripoli had fallen to American tanks rather than to the rebels themselves.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

One Response to Too Early to Claim Vindication in Libya

Show Comments >

  1. avatar Jon Harrison says:

    Love your last paragraph.

About the Author


Daniel Luban is a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. He holds a PhD in politics from the University of Chicago and was formerly a correspondent in the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service.

Back to Top ↑
  • Named after veteran journalist Jim Lobe, LobeLog provides daily expert perspectives on US foreign policy toward the Middle East through investigative reports and analyses from Washington to Tehran and beyond. It became the first weblog to receive the Arthur Ross Award for Distinguished Reporting and Analysis of Foreign Affairs from the American Academy of Diplomacy in 2015.

  • Categories

  • Subscribe

    Enter your email address to subscribe to our site and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Popular Posts

  • Comments Policy

    We value your opinion and encourage you to comment on our postings. To ensure a safe environment we will not publish comments that involve ad hominem attacks, racist, sexist or otherwise discriminatory language, or anything that is written solely for the purpose of slandering a person or subject.

    Excessively long comments may not be published due to their length. All comments are moderated. LobeLog does not publish comments with links.

    Thanks for reading and we look forward to hearing from you!