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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No-fly zone in Libya is no Iraq war

As soon as the U.N. operation into Libya began, critics on both the left and the right instantly began making comparisons to the war in Iraq. To some on the left, the implementation of the no-fly zone is just another egregious example of the U.S. over-extending its arms into another nation’s affairs. In fact, notable Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich is now calling for the president’s impeachment over the matter. To some on the right, U.S. opposition to a tyrannical dictator justifies former President George W. Bush’s decision to send troops into Iraq. However, both groups couldn’t be more wrong, as the operation in Libya and the war in Iraq are completely incomparable.

First of all, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a blatant violation of international law, while the implementation of the no-fly zone is a perfect example of international cooperation. According to international law, the use of force is justified only in matters of self-defense or with the approval of the U.N. Security Council. As every American knows, Iraq was not about self-defense and Bush failed to attain the blessing of the Security Council. The implementation of the no-fly zone in Libya, on the other hand, received the Security Council’s approval  and is a joint effort with the French leading the charge.

Second, the war in Iraq was no humanitarian mission. As much as those on the right wish to spin the story to claim that the war in Iraq was about freeing the Iraqi people from the horrors of Saddam Hussein, this simply wasn’t the case. If it was, then why did the administration not use it as a rationale for war until after it was determined that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction or no official ties to Al-Qaeda? Saving the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein was a consequence of U.S. action, but certainly not a reason for it.

Libya, though, is certainly a humanitarian mission. If the international community had failed to take action, Col. Muammar Gadhafi’s forces would have overtaken the last rebel stronghold in the city of Benghazi. Then, militias loyal to Gadhafi would have wreaked havoc on the people of Benghazi, punishing them for their disobedience. However, it’s naive to think that saving the people of Benghazi is the only motivation for the military operation, as Gadhafi has long been a thorn in the side of the U.S. government. Seeing him out of power would certainly put a grin on the people at the State Department’s faces, but it would be the result of a legitimate, homegrown movement, and not foreign invasion. The no-fly zone only gives the rebel movement cover from air strikes and much needed momentum, but they still have an intense ground war to fight on their own.

Those on the left, with the exception of complete pacifists, should be pleased with how the Obama administration has handled the crisis in Libya, and not drawing unnecessary comparisons to Iraq. This is no example of Bush-era nation building. Instead, it’s perhaps the only example of the U.N. functioning as it was designed to. The use of force is needed sometimes and if military action is required overseas, this is how it should be done.  

To those on the right, this hardly justifies the illegal actions of the Bush administration. Gadhafi and Saddam are both of the same breed, but lending moral and tactical support to a nearly defeated rebel movement is significantly different (and wiser) than a full-fledged invasion and takeover of another country.

While it’s unclear what will become of the current crisis in Libya, one thing is certain: As long as the U.S. continues to rule out the possibility of putting American troops on the ground, Libya will not turn into another Iraq. A no-fly zone is not the same thing as war, so any comparisons to the invasion of Iraq are completely moot.

— Andrew Shepherd is a political science senior. He can be reached at

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