ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

War and Peace in the 21st Century: Applying the Lessons Learned in Afghanistan and Iraq to Libya

Updated on May 24, 2011
Fibonacci Blue |  Minneapolis, Minnesota - Protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; March 20, 2010
Fibonacci Blue | Minneapolis, Minnesota - Protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; March 20, 2010 | Source

The first week of unrest in Libya was the week of February 13th. Nearly a month later, on March 18th, President Obama spoke hesitantly in favor of a no-fly zone. This gap of time shows that the Obama administration reflected on the lessons learned from the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before making decisions concerning Libya.  While the Obama Administration continues to make the correct decisions to ensure that the US will not make the same mistakes it did in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are still some decisions to be made with caution.

Of the numerous lessons learned from the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, one of the most important lessons is that foreign entities should not forcefully impose a rapid transfer of political power. In Iraq, The George W Bush administration chose to remove Saddam Hussein forcefully from power without giving substantial thought to “postwar governance costs” (Lake, 11). According to David Lake in his article, “Two Cheers for Bargaining Theory: Assessing Rationalist Explanations of the Iraq War,” the Bush administration assumed that the Iraqis would be able to build their own democratic state with little help and resources. Since, according to Deputy Defense Secretary at the time, Paul Wolfowitz, the increased oil revenue would pay for any postwar reconstruction necessary (Lake, 11).

Unfortunately, this was not the case and the Iraq war has cost the United States billions of dollars in addition to human losses, an increase in Arab anti-Americanism, and a downgrade in international reputation (Lake, 11). In Afghanistan, George W Bush worked to overthrow the Taliban government in Kabul and was also not prepared for the aftermath of the war, still the nation-building effort continues without an end in sight. 

Reflecting on these outcomes, Obama rejected that course of action this time around and has made it clear that the US alone will not be responsible for a nation-building effort in Libya.  In Obama’s speech at the National Defense University in Washington he said,"To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq…regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya" (The White House). The United States does not have unlimited resources, and especially now in a fiscal crisis, the role of the United States in international affairs is being challenged. President Obama is right; the United States cannot afford the unexpected outcomes of anymore overseas operations.

Although the US is leading the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama explicitly expressed that he did not want to repeat George W Bush’s unilateral approach in Libya (The White House). While some political scientists assert that America is on a hegemonic decline, the Unites States is the international military superpower.  Obama has repeatedly stated he is unwilling to deploy ground troops in Libya, and by doing so the President is correctly signaling that the US will have limited involvement in Libya. To ensure this limited involvement, the US officially transferred all commanding power of air operations to NATO on March 31st (The Christian Science Monitor). Since the transfer of power to NATO, U.S. planes account for only 15 percent of planes during air strikes (CBSnews.com).

However, the most recent debate is whether or not the US should arm the Libyan rebels against pro-Quaddafi forces. Already, there are Egyptian and US special-forces providing covert training to rebels (Politisite.com). While this isn’t deploying ground troops and giving them weapons per se, the US is arming the rebels with knowledge. There is hesitancy to arm the rebels because it may burden the US with nation-building responsibilities as it did in Afghanistan and Iraq. Also, if the US armed the rebels, it may send conflicting signals to the international community, since the US officially transferred power to NATO. Arming the rebels may seem like the US would be undermining its efforts for the Libyan intervention to be a multilateral effort. The US should not supply the arms because that action would assume the postwar responsibilities. However,  instead of posing this question to the United States alone, Britain and France should take the responsibility. Britain and France are equally able to train civilians and supply resources and do not have two other, rather unsuccessful, wars in the same region like the US does.

To avoid US responsibility for nation-building efforts after the removal of Quaddafi, the US should not be the only contributor of any resource to Libya and has correctly signaled that the US will not choose a leader for the Libyans or choose a governance system for the Libyans. This is a wise decision since, as President Obama said, the US had tried that before and it is not working out well. Imposing the American “western” lifestyle and governance upon Iraq and Afghanistan increased Arab anti-Americanism and served to counteract any efforts made within the region (Lake, 11). 

In Afghanistan, military force did not achieve its long-term goals since military force alone cannot align itself with social and political needs in a postwar environment (Biddle, p.3). Libya’s postwar environment will inevitably need political and economic resources, but the US alone should not dictate Libya’s political or cultural future. Again, any action that the US takes unilaterally will assume postwar responsibilities that it cannot afford. While President Obama has correctly exerted pressure on the Libyans to dictate their own future, the Libyans can also learn from the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and decide for themselves if they’d like to try a centralized democracy, or a mixed sovereignty model, or something completely different (Biddle, p. 3).

While the Obama administration has handled itself correctly to avoid past mistakes, the US still does not have a clear mission in Libya. In Iraq, the Bush administration had a variety of explanations for why the US went to war ranging from weapons of mass destruction to ending oppression. This was one of the largest contributing factors to why the war has not ended-the project became too multifaceted with each claim. While President Obama has expressed a desire for Quaddafi to go and support for the rebels, he has not set definitive means for removing Quaddafi from power. While time will tell if the Obama administration becomes more involved in Libya, whatever decisions arise will need to be clear both to the Libyans and to the American public.

The role of the United States is changing. While the US’ aim may not be to “Christianize, civilize, and colonize” like it was during the age of American Imperialism, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have signaled a new aim:  to democratize and westernize the Arab world. The choices which have been made concerning Libya, and those which have yet to be made, have the potential to change this perceived mentality and to possibly reverse some of the Arab anti-Americanism caused by the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By applying the lessons learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to Libya, like the Obama administration has been doing, the US’ limited postwar responsibility in Libya can cause a seamless, positive shift in the perceived aim of the US. 

References

The White House. “Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on Libya.” 2011. The White House, 28 March. < http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/03/28/remarks-president-address-nation-libya>. Accessed: April 9, 2011.

The Christian Science Monitor. “Libya timeline: Rebels and Qaddafi's troops still battling for Brega.” 2011. The Christian Science Monitor, 22 March. < http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0322/Libya-timeline-Rebels-and-Qaddafi-s-troops-still-battling-for-Brega>. Accessed: April 9, 2011

CBSnews.com. “Gen.: U.S. troops not ideal, but may be considered in Libya.” 2011. CBSnews.com, 7 April. <http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/04/07/501364/main20051760.shtml?tag=pop>. Accessed: April 9, 2011

Politisite.com. “No Boots on the Ground? U.S. Special Forces wear sneakers? Libyan rebels receive military traning.” 2011. Politisite.com, 10 April. < http://politisite.com/2011/04/04/no-boots-on-the-ground-u-s-specal-force-wearing-sneakers-libyan-rebels-receive-military-training/>. Accessed: April 10, 2011

Biddle, Stephen, Fotinii Chrstia, and J Alexander Their. 2010. Defining Success in Afghanistan. Foreign Affairs, Volume 89, Issue 4: 48-60

Lake, David. 2010/11. Two Cheers for Bargaining Theory: Assessing Rationalist Explanations of the Iraq War. International Security, Volume 35: 7-52

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)