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On Libya

The Editorial Board
May 6, 2011

A War to Oust Saddam Hussein Muammar Qaddafi

An Editorial

From the Spring, 2011 issue of Jewish Currents

The difference between President Obama’s military campaign in Libya and his predecessor’s war in Iraq comes down to two significant factors: the timing of dictators’ crimes, and the degree of multilateralism. Saddam Hussein’s worst massacres were in the past, while Muammar Qadaffi was just warming up to slaughter. Bush’s invasion was “illegal... not in conformity with the UN Charter,” said Kofi Anan in 2004, while Obama sought and received UN Security Council approval before striking in Libya.

War has a terrible habit, however, of rendering moot such distinctions, and turning idealism into folly. As we write in mid-April, Qadaffi seems to have enough military power, shrewdness, and cash to turn the NATO-led action into a “real” war; Obama has exceeded even George W. Bush in making war without Congressional approval; the U.S. and its allies have no real idea of who’s fighting whom in Libya, or what kind of government Qadaffi’s overthrow might yield; U.S. taxpayers are now financing three wars (really, state-building efforts) in the Middle East while watching our country founder and our standard of living collapse.

“War does not permit itself to be coordinated with reason and righteousness,” wrote Stefan Zweig in World of Yesterday. Obama has set us up to learn that lesson, once again, the hard way.