Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, Libya Is Not Iraq

Roundup: Historians' Take

[NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the editor of Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome, and the author of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.]

The Left is terribly embarrassed about the U.S. intervention in Libya. We have preemptively attacked an Arab Muslim nation that posed little threat to the national-security interests of the United States. President Obama did not have majority support among the American people. Nor did he even attempt to gain approval from Congress — especially egregious because he seems to be the first president since Harry Truman who sought and obtained sanction for military action from the United Nations without gaining formal authorization from his own Congress.

The administration offered no rationale for judging, on humanitarian grounds, that Qaddafi was more egregiously murderous than, say, the killers in the Congo or Ivory Coast. Nor, in terms of national security, did the relatively sparsely populated and isolated Libya pose a threat comparable to those posed by either Iran or Syria — concerning which we carefully steered clear when similar domestic unrest threatened both regimes.

Stranger still, the Qaddafi regime of over four decades’ duration had since 2003 courted Western nations, after promising to give up its sizable WMD arsenal in the light of Saddam Hussein’s fate. The Western response, if sometimes cynical and oil-driven, nevertheless was increasingly institutionalized, at least if we can gauge by the number of Western intellectuals who wrote encomia on behalf of Qaddafi, and by the institutions that, perhaps in return for sizable donations, gave degrees to his Westernized son and sponsored exhibitions of his artwork. The nadir of the Western outreach effort was the British release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, in apparent exchange for future oil concessions and intelligence cooperation.

Why, then, did we begin bombing?..

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