Foreign Policy Blogs

Libya's Iraqi Lesson? Or, "Why I Can't Stand Charles Krauthammer"

There’s currently a spirited debate shaping up on the Washington Post‘s Post Partisan blog between heavy-weight commentators Charles Krauthammer and Anne Appelbaum. Their discussion sheds light on a provocative contention some conservatives are now promoting; namely, that the Bush Doctrine set precedent for the Middle East’s demand for democracy.

Applebaum initially responsed to Krauthammer’s introductory statement in his Friday post, when he wrote:

“Voices around the world, from Europe to America to Libya, are calling for U.S. intervention to help bring down Moammar Gaddafi. Yet for bringing down Saddam Hussein, the United States has been denounced variously for aggression, deception, arrogance and imperialism.”

In an expression of abject bewilderment, Applebaum questioned the old hawk’s fantastical invention that somewhere out there, some people are begging for a U.S. intervention to dismantle the Ghaddafi regime. As she notes, there has been discussion of foreign aid or a no-fly zone, but only as part of a last-ditch, multilateral U.N. or NATO action to prevent genocide. But an outright American effort to topple an(other) Arab regime?

While I share Applebaum’s confusion regarding these untold masses calling for more American interventionism into national sovereignty, it was the second half of Krauthammer’s piece that I found truly offensive. As he picks up steam, the good doctor boldly asserts that the Iraqi experience since the US invasion offers a genuine source of inspiration for Libyans, and others in the Middle East and North Africa . As he puts it, “to the Middle Easterner, Iraq today is the only functioning Arab democracy.”

That’s a strong statement.  And one that rings utterly hollow. In no way, shape or form, has the American misadventure in Iraq been helpful to the cause of democracy. Protests that have sprung up in Tunisia, Egypt or Libya have occurred despite of, not because of, America’s Mesopotamian tragedy.

That Krauthammer preserves the hubris to contrast his imagined “moral support” for a military intervention against Gaddafi with the very real “moral opprobrium” piled atop the US for its decision to demolish pre-occupation Iraq, speaks to his own revisionist history.

As if on cue, Robert Kagan and Ruel Marc Gegerct (of “the Iranians…have terrorism in their DNA” fame) have sprung to Krauthammer’s defense. Despite the old timer’s bizarre perspective that the forcible importation of democracy to Iraq has provided “an example for the entire region,” his fellow neo-cons-in-arms have couched their terms to insist that the US nation-building routine did not prevent further calls for democracy.

Of course, they neglect to mention nobody’s asking for American assistance, either. But I guess we know how they sleep at night, and what keeps their dreams alive.



Reid Smith

Reid Smith has worked as a research associate specializing on U.S. policy in the Middle East and as a political speechwriter. He is currently a doctoral student and graduate associate with the University of Delaware's Department of Political Science and International Relations. He blogs and writes for The American Spectator.