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Reader responses: U.S. involvement in Libya

President Obama’s decision to launch air strikes in Libya to enforce a no-fly zone has gripped news headlines all weekend. Although the president has stressed that American forces would only target Libyan air defenses before deferring back to the international coalition to maintain the no-fly zone, many people remain uncertain that the U.S. will maintain a limited role in the country.

Last week, Need to Know contributor Joshua Foust assessed the potential outcomes of intervention. “Choosing not to intervene carries unforeseen consequences; in many ways, the international community’s refusal to intervene in Rwanda in 1994 contributed to the Congo’s horrifying decade of conflict,” he wrote. “But intervening also carries extreme costs, and burdens all who participate with dependencies and responsibilities few have discussed openly.”

Many of our readers have echoed Foust’s tone of trepidation over whether to intervene. Before the U.N. passed a resolution to create the no-fly zone over Libya last week, Facebook commenter Ruth expressed ambivalence over the international community’s involvement in Libya:

Europe gets just about every drop of oil that comes from Libya, and all they did was wring their hands. I’m glad that President Obama didn’t get us involved in this, but … if the U.S. is not going to be the world’s policeman then there damn sure won’t be one, because no other country will do it.

After the U.N. passed the resolution, Facebook commenter Robert advocated for an international coalition to spearhead the campaign, rather than the U.S. itself:

We shouldn’t lead this one. It would be reasonable to lend a hand and provide strategic advice, but the Arab League should lead this operation, and no country should be lending the overwhelming majority of military support. This should be through and through an international effort.

Steven echoed this opinion:

The U.S. should support only to the extent of helping the Europeans and Arab League with strategic planning. We should not use our military.

And on our website, Kinmak expressed skepticism over the U.S.’s motives:

Not saying Gadhafi should not be moved, nor saying a dictatorship should not be removed, but this move is really is another “oil” based intrusion and intervention of an independent state. Hypocrisy and self-interest were written on wall so clearly.

How do you feel about the U.S.’s involvement in Libya? Is it a welcome and necessary move to halt Gadhafi’s violent campaign or a rash decision whose consequences have not been fully considered? To what extent should the U.S. stay involved? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Keep up with all of our reader-driven discussions here at Need to Know, on Facebook and on Twitter.



  • sj adams

    I think it’s rather precarious, personally, with Russia and China “abstaining” from the UN voting on the issue, so ……. here we are again, without the total support of the world community. And on that note, aren’t Russia and China tremendous benefactors of/to Libya and the horrible regime there? Could we wind up again fighting a proxy war of sorts like we did in Korea in the 50′s?

  • Writer

    The point is not whether or not America should have intervened with military force or should use it to remove Gaddafi. The point is that it is unconstitutional for him to do it without congressional authority, and by doing so, made himself a king or dictator, and took away the voice of Americans, expressed through the debate and vote that should have happened in Congress, the branch of government closest to the People. The explaining and justifications he has been making since he sent America into its third Mid-East war should have been made to Congress and the People before Congress voted to, or not to giove him the authority to doi so, and then had they, there would be no need for post-attack explainations and justifications, and it would be valid to say that “we” cannot allow… or “we” have an obligation… etc.

    There is no “we” in this war. It is all President Obama, and it is all about a Congress both ignorant and spineless to stand up for its constitutional powers and responsibilities, as it has continually been since WWII.

    Grow a spine and stand up for yourselves, Congress! Be jealous of your powers as the Founders counted on you to be! Make a damn, loud noise about it and don’t let-up until a “Resolution of Trespass” is debated and voted on and, if passed, delivered to the president’s desk, condemning his violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers. Add to that (if more likely to get a trespass resolution passed) or send along with it, an ex-post-facto resolution restating Congress’s war power (and not just the purse) and granting the president authority to act according to the UN resolutions, with the exception of no manned attack aircraft (fighters, bombers, fighter-bombers) on offensive missions, only in defensive support of command-and-control, communications, refueling, and transport aircraft, no ground troops, a hard, one-year time limit, and a warning that the next time he or any president usurps Congressional war power that articles of impeachment will be brought up!

    The Founders put war power within Congress for a lot of good and necessary reasons, all of which remain valid today, and the nation is far worse off because of Congress making a practice of allowing presidents to usurp its decisions on when to start and/or end military conflicts. And Congress, for allowing it, is just as responsible for the damage as the presidents who overstepped their authorities, even though responsibility is what congressional members have been trying to avoid, to their detriment and the nations’.

    This is supposed to be a democracy, not the kingdom or dictatorship Congress and presidents are trying to turn it into with the “one-man concept” of war power!

  • Hawimax

    Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi has done terrible things to stay in power, and the Libyan people have ample reason to oppose him. The more important question is; for what reason has the US and the “international community” become military involved in Gaddafi’s overthrow, and now that we are, what are the likely consequences? Advocates of increased US involvement and the use of violence will point out our “moral duty”, to support the “little guy” and “democracy” against despotism. These aren’t bad arguments in themselves, assuming that is, a complete ignorance of the history of US militarism aided and abetted by the “international community,” as it is represented by the UN. The only thing that the US and the “international community” are likely to achieve in Libya is twisting and making meaningless any victory that the Libyan people could achieve on their own. Why? Because we don’t care about the “little guy” or “democracy,” we care about money and power, which is why we supported the horrible dictator Mubarak in Egypt, Saddam Hussein for many years, the Shah of Iran, and are currently supporting the regime in Yemen and the royals of both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
    The odious nature of the recent US/UN action inside Libya would be obvious if we were talking about China. Say China got involved in supporting a rebellion against a dictator they had previously backed (yes, we supported Gaddafi starting around 2003 when he finally conceded to our economic dictates– I will return to this point in detail) what conclusion would we rightfully come to? That China, seeing that the regime it had supported was unable to deal with a rebellion, decided to support the rebellion instead, to influence its development after it had defeated their old friends in the dictatorship. No one (at least outside China) would think that the Chinese had noble intentions. The same is true in the case of Libya and the US, a point which should be particularly obvious given the recent US involvement in Egypt. The horrible Egyptian dictator Mubarak was backed by the US for decades and Egypt received only slightly less aid than Israel. The bulk of this aid went to the Egyptian military, so the real key to US influence over Mubarak was US monies flowing to the Egyptian military. When the Egyptian people forced Mubarak out, who came to power? The Egyptian military, who were already largely in power under Mubarak and whose first act was to crack down on organized labor. The point is, the US was in bed with Mubarak, but when his own people pushed him out, the US didn’t really care, because of its relationship with the Egyptian military, who are even more in our pocket. At the same time, the US and the UN didn’t try and support the Egyptian protesters, just like the US and UN largely ignored what Gaddafi was doing to his own people until it became obvious that he could not deal with the situation. Now, the US and UN are trying to play “hero” to the Libyan resistance because unlike in Egypt the US doesn’t already have a man in place to take over in the eventuality of Gaddafi’s defeat. Therefore, we need to get control of the situation by other means, namely attacking Libya.
    But wait! I thought we tried to kill Gaddafi in the 1980s, didn’t Ronald Reagan call Gaddafi the “Mad Dog of the World.” Why yes he did, but not because Ronald Reagan was a defender of “human rights” or “justice.” Let’s not forget Ronald Reagan’s role in supporting dictators, torturers and terrorist from the Contras in Nicaragua, to the Shah of Iran, to the genocidal government in Guatemala, to Baby Doc Duvalier in Haiti, to General Suharto in Indonesia, to Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, to Saddam Hussein and the list goes on. No, the US objected to Libya’s nationalism and independence. The real crime for which Iraq was eventually destroyed. It is worth mentioning that Libya is a petro-state and Gaddafi originally tried using some of these monies to support his own population (which is one of the best off in Africa), force the US to remove its Wheelus Airbase from Libyan soil and sponsor a drive for African unity, which is anathema to Washington. This doesn’t make Gaddafi a “nice guy,” just not easily pushed around.
    I mentioned that “nationalism” and “independence” was Iraq’s crime as well, but this takes some explanation. The US in Iraq helped overthrow the nominally democratic government of Kassim in the 1950s and put the Baath party in power, from which Saddam Hussein originates. The hope was that the Baath and Saddam would prove more malleable to foreign business interests, but Saddam used much of the country’s oil wealth to support his own people, who, while risking torture and murder if they opposed the regime, were relatively well taken care of. They had a low infant mortality rate, higher wages for the area, good education, ect. This is much like Gaddafi’s Libya, but also like Gaddafi, Saddam ran into problems with Israel and the US didn’t approve of his independent stance. The fall of the Shah of Iran1 in 1979 meant that Iraq was spared US wrath temporarily, instead being used as a pawn to kill Iranians and vice-versa, but when it ended, the US first encouraged Iraq (we told Saddam we didn’t care if he did) to invade Kuwait and then used it as a pretext to invade Iraq and slowly starve the country back to 3rd world status, at the price of 1.5 million Iraqi civilians, 750,000 of them children. So the point is, Saddam was our friend until he became too independent, at which point he was used and then destroyed.
    Gaddafi is the opposite of Saddam, he was our enemy until violence, sanctions and finally the example of Bush’s invasion of Iraq, led his regime to adopt our economic model around 2003, when he began privatizing much of the wealth of Libya and got rid of limitations on the ability of foreign companies to suck Libya dry. Since then, Libya has gone for being a relatively nice place to live, minus the threat of the secret police, because of the oil wealth, to being increasingly like its neighbors, desperate and highly economically unequal. This is a major reason for the rebellion we see today, because people have seen their hopes for the future crushed and their economic situation reduced. But, this is also why the US has more or less liked Gaddafi since 2003, he has been doing what we want, even if he did disparage Bush. At the same time, the unrest now offers an opportunity to get rid of Gaddafi and replace him with someone even more compliant and with less of an independent history. After all, Gaddafi and Chavez have been chummier than we would like, so from the perspective of US elites there is room for improvement in Libya.
    Economics are the heart of everything that has been happening in the Middle East lately. The revolt or protest or whatever you want to call it in Egypt was the result of people unhappy with their economic situation, workers who want basic rights, kids who couldn’t get jobs, professionals who have seen their working conditions deteriorate, ect. This is all connected to the kind of economic policies Egypt has been pursuing. Since about 2006, Egypt has increasingly adopting so-called neo-liberal “reforms,” which benefit companies, but hurt regular people. The country even won an award for it from the World Bank. These are the policies that the US and the “international community” want. In Egypt’s case, and it is not exceptional, the gross domestic product has been growing by leaps and bounds, so these economic policies are generating massive wealth, but the question is, for whom? Most the money gets sucked up to the top, the poorest get poorer and inequality grows rapidly. Globally, all of this economic strain brought about by so called “reforms” is made particularly potent by the kinds of fluctuation we have seen both in 2008, but again in 2011 in commodity prices, particularly the price of food and energy. The deregulation of the commodity based derivatives market, accomplished by the same banks who created the recent financial crisis, has generated wild price fluctuations by placing an artificial speculative market on top of supply and demand. The neo-liberal “reformers” always cut “wasteful” domestic spending, meaning social programs, so people’s lives are universally vulnerable to these kinds of price fluctuations.
    The US response to unrest in Bahrain, as it is contemporaneously happening with Libya, is worth examining as a counter to claims of our nobility of intent. Bahrain is the base of the US 5th fleet and as such is a huge strategic asset. The venal and corrupt King of Bahrain and assorted relatives are no less “insane” than Gaddafi, but despite using violence against their own protesters of a similar magnitude, the situation in Bahrain has received little attention and the US continues to send guns to the regime. Likewise, perhaps the number one violator of human rights in the entire Middle East, Saudi Arabia, has only avoided massive protest of its own by strategically pouring oil wealth into a series of minor reforms and public relations stunts. At the same time, it has been making massive purchases of US military hardware, part of which could be used against its own people, but which it is currently using to support Bahrain’s repression of its people (in conjuncture with the United Arab Emirates) and attack Yemen. Yemen’s government, backed by the US is currently also attacking its own people (and it turns out the US is also bombing Yemen) while Saudi Arabia attacks inside Yemen territory and the whole mess of carnage is being justified by some vague pretense that this is all related to fighting Al Queda. In reality, the Yemeni dictatorship is shooting people who are just like the ones fighting against Gaddafi. Yemen’s proximity to the Straights of Hormuz, by which most of the worlds oil wealth flows and the US occupation of Iraq is orchestrated, no doubt influences our strategic decision in this case.
    In understanding the motivations behind US foreign policy, it is worth reflecting on some of the comments made by one of the top so-called “doves” of the early cold war, George Kennen. In Policy Planning Study 23, written for powerful people with the government and never supposed to be made public, Kennen reports, “We have 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population… Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationship which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity… To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming… We should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization.” Of course, in public, Kennan’s words were very different, but this too is an important lesson. The exact UN resolution on Libya doesn’t just call for just a no-fly zone to prevent Gaddafi from bombing his own people, which might be a good thing, but instead lays the groundwork for much more active military involvement. The US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, explained that the Obama Administration’s earlier hesitation, why it didn’t initially support the UN resolution that it had largely been pushing for, was based on the resolution’s limitations, in that it only allowed for a no fly zone. This shouldn’t be surprising, because the US and the “international community” doesn’t care about whether Gaddafi bombs his own people, after all we support plenty of people who do, stopping this would be a “vague and unreal objective,” what is at issue here is the future of Libya’s oil wealth.

  • ALLY


  • Yasmin adams

    i think the american army shud keep their army to themselves. they’ve caused more damage in libya than nato and gaddaffi put together

  • Yasmin adams

    i think the american army shud keep their army to themselves. they’ve caused more damage in libya than nato and gaddaffi put together

  • Yasmin adams

    why dont they let the africans think for themselves for once

  • Yasmin adams

    why dont they let the africans think for themselves for once