Why Libya is Not Iraq
This is how Nick Kristof began his column today:
This may be a first for the Arab world: An American airman who bailed out over Libya was rescued from his hiding place in a sheep pen by villagers who hugged him, served him juice and thanked him effusively for bombing their country.
The scene described above is more than just an anecdotal tidbit, an isolated moment. Instead, it is emblematic of the popular sentiment embedded journalists are finding throughout Libya: gratitude for intervention by coalition forces. Gratitude for intervention by the West. Gratitude for intervention by the United States.
And for good reason.
As Kristof rightly reports, if not for the current intervention by coalition forces — the “no-fly zone” — a massacre would have taken place in several cities, including Benghazi. And this is precisely where the difference between Libya and Iraq resides: intervention in Libya is an effort to avert a humanitarian disaster. Mass murder. The destruction of entire civilian blocks within densely populated cities.
Intervention in Iraq in 2003? When President Bush invaded on faulty “weapons of mass destruction” intelligence, invaded to “protect” American security interests? Must we even make comparisons between the two?
(Yes, as Jeffrey Goldberg points out, the Kurds in Iraq in 2003 were unanimous in their support of a military incursion by U.S. forces. But such a view was not held by the majority of Iraqis.)
In 2011, what’s remarkable is not what Libyans and those throughout the Muslim world are doing. It’s what they are not doing: protesting American “colonialism” and burning American flags. Gathering in large numbers, fists raised toward the sky, chanting anti-Western slogans, firing guns into the air.
No, these scenes are largely absent from the landscape. Why?
The bombing campaign in Libya is principally a humanitarian effort for which the Libyan people — and even Arab states — asked.