A Quick Word on Libya

Conference seasons is chugging along, so blogging has been sparse after my early-spring surge.  But I had a couple of thoughts on the goings on abroad—mainly (entirely actually) about Libya.

First, I'm surprised that I haven't been hearing about more just how little we seem to know about the goals and composition of the "rebel movement" in Libya.  I suspect that referring to it as a homogenous or single movement is by no means an accurate depiction of what's going on.  I'm primarily surprised that this subject has not come up far more frequently given our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I know these wars happened a long time ago…yeah, that sounds right…but surely there were lessons to be learned from the complexities that domestic tribal structures and factions introduced for a foreign power trying to build a new set of governmental institutions during, and subsequent to a military occupation.

Second, my impression is that the approach most conservative pundits and policymakers are trying to take in attacking President Obama's handling of US involvement in Libya is that his policy of limited engagement is "amateurish" (as I seem to recall Newt Gingrich referring to it).  Rather, their implicit argument is that unless Obama declares regime change and boots on the ground to be our policy, then our mission/mandate is "unclear".  Essentially this is the debate between limited uses of military force versus full military engagements.  But given my first point (see previous paragraph) I'm surprised that this is an acceptable tack to take.  Can you really attack a president as being incompetant for setting limits on further military interventions when we are still trying to complete two other wars that have taken about a decade, billions of dollars, thousands of lives, and where the outcome is still highly uncertain?  Do Republicans really believe that this approach is based on solid ground?  Do/would their own constituents really support escalation simply on the basis of partisan opposition to the president?  To put it differently, do they really believe that the use of force cannot be "competant" unless it involves large-scale mobilization and occupation?  It seems to me that the aforementioned wars, fought so long ago, in a time far far away…and probably with light sabers…have shown us that even when we fully mobilize our forces, supplement them with thousands of private contractors and some foreign military forces, the goals and objectives can still be incredibly vague and uncertain. 

Am I missing something?  If it's about light sabers I don't want to hear it. 

Michael Flynn

About Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Kansas State University. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Binghamton University in 2013. His research focuses on the political and economic determinants of foreign economic and security policy, security issues, and state repression.

3 Replies to “A Quick Word on Libya”

  1. Thanks Phil. It is surprising how the lessons from the past decade have not prompted the media to probe more into these issues. I think you’re right about the post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan age, despite the fact that they’re ongoing operations. It’s disturbing how we seem to be “so over it” as they say!
    On another note, I’m planning on attending one of your panels on Saturday at Midwest (2pm sound right?). I’d like the opportunity to meet and grab a drink sometime after (or before if that works) if you have some free time.
    Take care!

  2. Agreed, it would be nice to know why the media have allowed this collective memory loss to occur.
    Yeah, the Saturday panel is at 2 or 2:15 or whatever that time slot is. I expect a couple of us will be going out for drinks after the panel, and you’re more than welcome to join. I don’t have any real plans before the panel either, so if that works better for you, that would be good too.

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