Foreign Policy Blogs

Lessons Learned Eight Years In…

Eight years and one day ago, the United States government disregarded international law and began the invasion of Iraq with a staggering display of “shock and awe.” On Thursday, the United Nations Security Council approved the use of force in Libya, including “all necessary measures…to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack.”

Although the U.N. resolution forbids “a foreign occupation force on any part of Libyan territory,” one must question whether such an action is off the table for the Western powers. Given the intervention in Libya, it’s relevant to consider where “all necessary measures” offered the Iraqi people has gotten them over the past eight years.

With hopes that Libyan resistance will avail themselves of the foreign powers coalition and the aegis of a UN resolution, one must have mixed feelings about a foreign (read: Western) intervention against Gadhafi. While it is unlikely that Libya will devolve into another Iraq, we are once again reminded that there is no shortcut to democracy. It can only be accomplished through an authentic, popular movement, guided by a noble political spirit, through which a national constituency can determine its future, as a whole.

If we have learned one thing from American involvement in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan, it is that you cannot impose democracy by bombing strategic targets. Academic, author and British MP, Rory Stewart, who witnessed post-invasion Iraq first-hand as an emerging diplomat, has warned that we could shift quickly “from dipping our toe in the water to being submerged up to our necks.”

Back in 2003, our leaders skirted the truth about the real reasons for our national splash into military conflict. Let us make sure that our involvement in 2011 is better executed, both logistically and morally.



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.