Does a comparison of Iraq and Libya offer any valid lessons for U.S. policy?

Some critics of the U.S.-led war in Iraq are pointing out that regime change in Libya was accomplished at lower cost and with no loss of American lives. Today’s Question: Does a comparison of Iraq and Libya offer any valid lessons for U.S. policy?

  • Kurt

    All of our intelligence led us to believe that Iraq had a substatnsial stockpile of WMDs. Virtually everyone believed this even though many of them denied it ex post facto. We perceived them as an immenent threat and , after 9-11, were not about to wait for them to use those weapons against us. The intel was wrong. That said, Iraq appears to be in a better place now. It cost us dearly in money and lives,

    Libya stopped being a credible threat to us decades ago. They elimanated their nuclear arsenal. They no longer engagaed in terrorism.

    I am not sure why we joined the scrum. As in Egypt we seem only to want to be “on the side thats winning” as the trubador said. These engagements may appear “cheap”, but I think we enter them at our own peril. What replaces these regimes may well prove worse than what was there. So cost is relative pending the outcome.

  • Emery

    Several of the rich world’s democracies offered help when it was asked for and when their weapons could make a difference. They were not neutral, but had the courage to favor a rebel movement against a repressive dictator. The death of Qaddafi sends a message to dictators much more effective than the death of Hussein, mixed as that was with so many American misfortunes:

    You too, Mr. Dictator, should be careful not to mistreat your people too badly, as the time will come when those people rebel, and powerful free countries will help those rebels to defeat you.

    I hope that we can offer some help to the Syrian people eventually, although I think that opportunity has not yet presented itself.

  • Rich

    2 Billion in Libya and approx 2 trillion in Iraq.

    Then we have to do the numbers on the lifetime benefits and medical care that will be paid out to the tens of thousands of our horribly maimed soldiers that fought in Iraq. What a colossal waste of blood and treasure.

  • GaryF

    Overthrowing two dictators is only the first step. Trying to install some type of representative government is the next step.

    Iraq had one of the worlds largest armies, bigger than most European nations. Libya was a less advanced country with a smaller army. So knocking him off was a bigger and more lengthy task.

    But we don’t know if the “kinetic military action” in Libya is a success yet. What happens if they become another Yemen, Syria, or Iran? What if AQ or the Muslim Brotherhood move in a make Libya a radical terrorist friendly Muslim state?

    Knocking off a dictator is only the first step, helping to develop a country that can live and do business in the real world is the real goal.

    Just where do all those rounds go when the Middle Eastern people do their touchdown dance with automatic weapons?

  • Zeke

    Looks to me that Libya is the more conservative and cost efficient route to go. More bang for the buck if you will…

  • Daniel

    Probably, we shall keep learning, more economically and ecologically. When will we learn we must end the War on people and nature?

    End prohibition of Cannabis/hemp and it’s bound to end wasteful spending on stupid violence and promote creative cooperation among citizens and kin.

  • GaryF

    “Looks to me that Libya is the more conservative and cost efficient rout

    I see, so that is why we are putting troops on the ground in Uganda? In stead of tackling the real menaces of the world like Syria and Iran, lets just flex our muscles with the little guys on the play gound?

  • kimMN

    What misses the mark here in this question is that Obama has __never__ had a foreign has been a passive lead from behind approach with getting permission from the corrupt UN. He could have supported the protesting in Syria but he remained quiet, as Asad then killed thousands of his own citizens as we looked away.

    Obama along with Soros’ group that included support from Hillary for getting the UN to adopt this scam of a global policy called, ” The Duty to Protect Doctrine” led the way for further global unrest in the middle east. If you do a check on the writer of that Doctrine and read the UN records of just how this was initiated and by who , the facts will be scary!

    The bottom line is that Obama has no foreign policy for us to see and thus, there is little to nothing to discuss.

    Am I wrong? Does anyone know where his foreign policy plan is posted? Nope_ we can not see it because he has none..That is not leadership.

  • Hannah

    The best observation we can make here is that the United States continues to pick and choose which revolutions it wants to poke its fingers into, while ignoring those who need our help the most. For the past 70 years we have ruthlessly denied Palestine its long-overdue independence. Instead, unlike Iraq and Libya (and many others), we require that the Palestinians “work it out on their own”, persisting in repeatedly fruitless peace talks with Israel, no small coincidence the United States’ closest ally. Meanwhile, we refuse to acknowledge the democratically elected leaders in the state of Palestine while turning a blind eye to Israel’s injustices and flagrant disregard for international law.

    Why Libya? Why Afghanistan? Why Iraq? Why not Palestine?

    Our effort to cloak our own self-interests in righteous nation-building is painfully transparent and should deceive no one.

  • Silence KimMN

    First stupid kimMN post at 9:52 today. The over/under on how often we will hear from her today is 5.

  • kimMN

    I should clarify, Obama has a policy and it is derived from ” The Duty to Protect Doctrine” Who wrote it? When was composed? Which groups initiated it? How would it promote certain agendas?

    If that is the sole Obama foreign policy then we should expect him to bypass Congress once again, as he did with going to the UN to move NATO to use French jets to attack Libya and then take the credit.

    Where are the liberals today that had cried FOUL when Reagan had our military bomb Quadaffi in 1988? Or when our troops caught Sadam. Did they forget Sadam killed more of his people over 20 years than Asad or Quadaffi? All were bad and needed to be removed but somehow Iraq wasn’t needed because it was Bush in charge? Hmmmm.

    Now go read up on ” The Duty to Protect Doctrine” and then ask yourself if that is the Hope and Change you voted for.

  • Regnar James

    KimMN, I’m with you:-)


  • kimMN

    If Obama’s foreign policy is as poor as his so called economic policy, then we are in deep trouble. Iraq vs. Libya is like comparing apples to oranges.

    Just because Obama calls something a nice sounding policy doesn’t make it sound. Look at his green jobs act. Has anyone added up how many billions were spent on his policy for green jobs-green energy stimulus slush fund that a good portion ends back up in his campaign? Obama’s Energy Dept loans billions to companies that then_ get this_ has the electric cars being made in foreign countries! WOW

  • kimMN

    The valid lessons from current U.S. policy shows that Bush sought and got approval from Congress for going after Sadam. Obama went to get approval from NATO only after___ he spent weeks being courted by the UN to take action..yet, Saudi Arabia contributed the equivalent of a dollar and Russia sat silent protecting their oil imports.

    No matter what Obama will give in speeches, his actions show he is not_ for building american jobs but he is for lowering the status of the USA ( just as his apologetic speeches in the middle east has shown as well as his support with the Fed Reserve’s QE2 that diminished the dollar.

    If Obama’s policies both foreign and domestic were to benefit America, then why does he support the Occupy Wall Street agendas of collapsing our banks and removing capitalism?

  • Silence KimMN

    4 ridiculous comments from kimMN by 1:23 PM. Lot’s of time left to end up in the money.

  • Steve the Cynic


    Here’s one of many reasons intelligent people don’t take your rants seriously. You write, “‘The Duty to Protect Doctrine’ led the way for further global unrest in the middle east. If you do a check on the writer of that Doctrine and read the UN records of just how this was initiated and by who , the facts will be scary!” This is nothing more than innuendo. In fact, most of the question marks in your posts follow rhetorical questions that are mere innuendoes. No one bothers to check your research or find facts to refute you, because you give no evidence that you have any real grasp of the facts, or care what the facts are in the first place. You give nothing but weak arguments and falacious inferences. Even if your alleged facts are correct, they do not lead to the conclusions you draw. Somewhere along the line, our educational system failed to teach you critical thinking. Sorry about that. Maybe someday we’ll learn from Finnland how to run our schools. ‘Course, it’ll be over the objections of folks like you who think government should be shrunk to the point of irrelevancy.

  • Steve the Cynic

    “Virtually everyone believed this even though many of them denied it ex post facto.”

    Speak for yourself, Kurt. I didn’t believe Saddam had any operational WMDs. In hindsight, the government officials who believed it were willingly decieved, being eager to find an excuse for invading. Members of the general public who believed the government were either gullible, or equally willingly deceived.

  • Steve the Cynic

    “Now go read up on ‘The Duty to Protect Doctrine’ and then ask yourself if that is the Hope and Change you voted for.”

    Firstly, duty to protect is a concept in the mental health profession. The concept in international relations, is termed responsibility to protect. That said, yes, it’s precisely the kind of change I would hope for. Had such a policy been in place, we could have halted the Rwandan genocide, instead of dithering while mass murder was going on.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Here’s the lesson: Don’t topple dictators; support revolutionaries who want to topple their own dictators, instead.

    There’s a disturbingly large minority in Iraq that thinks things were better under Saddam than they are now. Why is that? Partly it’s nostalgic bias. Partly it’s because they resent having regime changed forced from the outside. In effect they’re thinking, “Sure, he was a brutal thug, but he was our brutal thug.”

    We’ve basically won the war in Iraq, but we haven’t won the peace. In Libya, winning the peace is not our problem. Because the people did it mostly themselves in Libya, they have more of a stake in making it work.

  • James

    It appears to be less costly to topple dictators is a support rather than leading role.

    However, it’s a little early to draw conclusions as (a) it’s least costly to not be in the business of toppling dictators at all and (b) in these 2 cases, it’s early days still, and the new energetic leaders may make the old, tired leaders seem pretty agreeable.

  • suestuben


    Please note that most people honor the spirit of this MPR column by reading posts and by stating their opinions, usually one time. You tend to argue and attack other people thru numerous postings and so tear down the honest give and take of this column. You make it far less educational and enjoyable with your actions. You drive away honest folk with your abrasive attitude.

    Will you please state your opinion and stop your repetitive, argumentative postings? The fact that you feel the need to attack anyone who does not think like you shows that you have little confidence in yourself. That is something that you can work on by activities that increase your belief in yourself (education and research) instead of by obnoxiously attacking anyone who doesn’t agree with you. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, so state yours and get off line to allow others to state theirs.

  • david

    The only WMD Iraq had, and the only one that could be a threat to us by Iran is trading oil in euros instead of dollars. Why do you think France of all countries led the way into Libya? Ok that’s last part is just speculation on my part, except France does get an awful lot of its oil from Libya.

  • kimMN

    @suestuben and Steve..

    Gosh, contrary to sue’s remarks, nowhere do I attack anyone’s posts nor it is to be abrasive. A careful re-read however will show that each time mine and others views disagrees with the old guard’s rather far liberal view or with bringing ideas that few media will report on, we then are name called.

    Steve mentioned Finland as a great example of where policy works. yes, they are smart enough to take advantage of Obama’s policies for growth! Today however, the CEO of Fisker, the car company, received over_ $528.2 million of your tax dollars from the Obama stimulus plan of which we all recall that Obama earlier said,

    ” pass this bill or unemployment will see 8% !” The money to the Finland company does not add one American manufacturing job, just as the half billion was wasted on Solyndra and twice as much again given to Sun Power. The CEO of Fisker stated today that he couldn’t build these cars in America because of the new regulations against companies in the USA.

    The loan however, included pay offs for “displaced American workers” because of these bad loans build cars in Finland and not here. so_ while we throw $500 billion of tax dollars to Finland, we also compensate American auto workers because of lost job opportunity that Obama created..amazing. It almost looks as if we are trying to add to the unemployment here!

    The Libya policy should teach all MInnesotans that under Obama we all have fewer freedoms, fewer jobs, less manufacturing and that the records do show__ he has collected more Wall Street money than all the GOP candidates to date…..Do liberals mind that Obama is #1 in the top ranks of receiving Wall Street donations?

    Wall Street is indeed in bed with our top leader and his party, just as they were when the Republicans held the office..AS LONG AS government uses the IRS codes for business regulation we will see this pattern continue with big business lobbying to gain favor. Thus, Obama is really no different than the preceding party.

    Thank god we have the new conservatives in office to make some needed changes and the Tea Party is due some credit there in the Nov. elections where many of the more useless Republicans and legions of Dems were voted out so the House was controlled by the Repubs America spoke and contrary to the MSNBC crowd of a few thousand viewers, most of America shares conservative values and most, 60-70 % agree that the country is headed in the wrong direction now that they see the results after the past nearly three years.

    My apologies to those few who post here having to give up their professed “tolerance and diversity” as they attack and name call the rest of us that do not share their opinion.

    In reflection, their attacks are very similar to the class warfare tactic and the ‘divide the country’ approach we are hearing from the White House every day. For example: Just last week Obama gave a campaign speech disguised poorly as ” Pass this Bill now!” speech in which he openly ridiculed the Republicans in the House saying thy couldn’t understand his bill because it was “too long.”

    Did he also forget that several Democrats also did not vote for his plan? Hmmm….

    If the Libya policy showed us anything it is that the current administration only differs from Bush in that Obama bypasses the Congress and undermines the Constitution all too often.

    __ In my humble opinion derived from the reported failed results of his economic and foreign policies.

  • kimMN

    Is this news below, related to our US policy on foreign affairs?

    Judicial Watch has filed a lawsuit over the federal government’s REFUSAL to disclose how much taxpayers spent to send Michelle Obama on a “family outing” that included a safari in Africa. Maybe she was there to cut costs on freeing Libya? or just to spend our money as the acting Queen of hypocrisy? She tells us to cut back while she spends other’s money to vacation….jeeesh, on her hubby’s million plus income per year, they can’t pay their own way for vacations?

  • Steve the Cynic

    “…nowhere do I attack anyone’s posts…”

    Yes, KimMN, you do. Unlike suestuben, I don’t presume to understand why you do what you do, but you do in fact come across as abrasive. In fact, when you complain of being attacked, it reminds me of a playground bully who runs crying to the teacher when the other kids stand up to him. I have to laugh when you ridicule Democrats and then object to Democrats ridiculling Republicans, or when you call “liberals” extreme and then object to that adjective being applied to your views.

    Your arguments are persuasive only to people who are eager to be persuaded, or to have their existing opinion confirmed. Skeptical, fair-minded people are not persuaded by your style of rhetoric.

  • Kurt

    @suestuben and steve

    I went back and looked at the transcript as it were. At 9:52 KimMN comments, he attacks no one. At 9:57, he is attacked. At 10:12 Kim comments again. He does so again at 1:11 and 1:23. He attacks no one. At 2:17 he is again attacked. Then at 2:20, he is attacked again, this time by Steve. So he may make a lot of posts, and you may not like what he has to say, but he has not attacked anyone. All the personal attacks seem to be incoming.

  • darwin

    MPR must be proud to have brought the ‘quality’ of the Strib’s comments section to your own webpages.What’s next? An MPR version of CJ lite ?

  • kimMN

    Final comment on how Iraq and Libya could be a lesson for Obama on policy:

    First off, Obama is calling to remove all troops while the ruling party refuses to grant our remaining soldier advisers immunity from legal actions..a female adviser in the Army goes without a burka or is seen unescorted by a male in the evening_ she gets the stones thrown at her?

    When American troops leave Iraq, Iran sets it’s stated plans to move in and take over not only the oil fields but their shakey government…result: failure of American policy.

    We took out Sadam within 30 days, we saved Kuwait in 4 days…and the Iraq war dragged on due to Bush listening to an idiot with no knowledge or experience that made our troops change course.

    The Libya action was never a “policy” because___ Obama circumvented our Constitution by refusing to get Congressional approval. Obama never presented any form of a foreign policy for Libya support nor for Iran’s democracy support or for our closest ally in Israel.

    Bush Jr and Sr. on the other hand, both had gained Congressional approval for the Iraq wars…as the Constitution demands.

    Obama cares less about our Constitution than he does for his image….such as his ludicrous Nobel Peace Prize given to him by the fourth week in office! For doing nothing.

    There are 80 year old relatives from Lebanon that resisted war with Hamas /PLO but fled, and they did more to earn the Nobel Peace prize than Obama ever did. Which makes it all the more curious why_ he has NO foreign policy of certitude.

    So the lesson here seems to be that we have a president void of policy in not only foreign support but also void in economic policy for the USA…. In contrast, in one year, the Reagan policies allowed for the private sector to create 1.2 million jobs. just one year.

    The conclusion now coming out of the Democratic moderates is that Obama’s philosophy is indeed anti-small business and anti- American exceptionalism. Sad.

  • Kim’s good twin

    We have to stay in Iraq indefinitely and forever, too! It’s like hiring the same contractor who accidentally tore the entire front off the house while replacing the gutters. Then, once the front of the house is repaired, the contractor insists on moving in with you in case squirrels get into the gutters. No matter how much you resent their presence, no matter how much they offend you just by being there, the contractors just will not leave because there’s a tree next to your house and it has squirrels in it and those squirrels will be in your gutter the moment they leave, which they agree they will… someday… but at a time of their choosing and in such a way as the squirrels won’t know how many contractors are left or when they will be leaving.

    Yup! That’s the logic of the GOP. The party that wants both houses of Congress and the Oval Office.

  • Rich

    Mr Obama had been vilified by the Republicans, who accused him of “leading from behind”, but who could never make up their own minds whether they wanted him to do more , less or nothing at all. Though it took time, the president’s strategy worked out almost exactly as he predicted.

  • Kim’s good twin

    “Mr Obama had been vilified by the Republicans, who accused him of ‘leading from behind’…”

    Absolutely, and with good reason.

    For example, Obama’s approach in Libya has had no where near the success of G.W. Bush’s management of the Iraq war.

    Uh, I mean Bush’s success in Afghanistan.

    Actually, I meant Reagan’s approach in Lebanon.

    Well okay, make that Nixon’s approach in Vietnam and Cambodia.

    Um…this is a trick question, right?

  • I’m the real Kim.. no ur not.. ;^)

    The most that can be said against Obama’s approach in Libya is that he has been lucky that it worked out as it has so far. Of course, he was also lucky that they assault on bin Laden worked out as it did.

    At some point, one has to think that “luck” in foreign affairs is beginning to look like an improbable explanation. Or, if it indeed an accurate explanation, then perhaps America could do with a bit more of that kind of luck. Certainly it has been is short supply in the past.

  • Steve the Cynic


    re: your post of October 22, 2011 4:57 PM

    You are correct that there were personal attacks by someone posting under the name, Silence KimMN. I have no idea who that was, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t someone who’s been posting here under another name (or names). However, the other replies to KimMN’s comments were not personal attacks but critiques and rebuttals. There’s a difference. The critiques and rebuttals were edgy, but then so is KimMN’s rhetoric. Fair’s fair, no? (I also had a mild objection to suestuben’s comment, as it seemed to be condescendingly offering a psychoanalysis, but it still wasn’t a personal attack.)

  • Steve the Cynic

    “The most that can be said against [Did you mean ‘for’?] Obama’s approach in Libya is that he has been lucky that it worked out as it has so far. Of course, he was also lucky that they assault on bin Laden worked out as it did.”

    The president has more control over foreign policy than over the economy. Yet you blame him for the state of the economy while attributing his foreign policy successes to luck. Clearly, you’re not being fair-minded, Real Kim.

  • Troll’s r us

    Steve, you, KimMN, Kurt and a few the other trolls need to develop some hobbies.

    Apparently your snark meter is not working.

    Even I can see that (I am the real Kim)-(no ur not ;^)) was a snarky reply to KimMN.

    I believe it’s called ironic humor. Which the trolls on this page are in short supply of…..

  • I’m the real Kim.. no ur not.. ;^)

    I don’t make typo’s Steve…. You missed the rich irony in my post.


  • Steve the Cynic

    “Steve, you, KimMN, Kurt and a few the other trolls need to develop some hobbies. “

    This isn’t a hobby?

    (And yes, apparently I did miss the irony in that other post.)