Obama and Libya: Not Another Cowboy?

Monday, March 21, 2011 - 12:20 PM

Whenever I bring up to his fans that Barack Obama once said that he would end the Iraq war the day he took office, "Not in six months or in one year, but now", they chalk it up to campaign promises that all politicians make. I don't, I see it as naivete.

The Barack Obama of 2007, when he made that pledge, either didn't grasp the larger consequences of pulling out of Iraq, something civilians like myself understand wouldn't be a one-day event or he knew that the war had become unpopular and he could tap into that opposition by making far-flung promises. Reality just didn't matter to him. He could say anything and people would cheer at the sound of his voice.

The most worrisome thing about watching Obama get elected, in a time of financial and world conflict, was that he seemingly stood for nothing and people just projected their beliefs unto him. People were tired of Bush and Obama had the word "change" right there in his slogan. The fact that Republicans picked the worst presidential candidate of all time, well, that's a post for another day.

One thing we supposedly knew, though, was that Barack Obama wasn't going to be a cowboy president. He was measured, intelligent and peaceful. He would never get us mired in a war.

Yet here we are, at the start of a third war. That the language is different means nothing. It's not weapons of mass destruction, it's not Al Qaeda training camps, it's a tyrant putting down his freedom-seeking people. That Saddam did the same thing in the most brutal fashion, with people-shredders and children's prisons, seems entirely lost on Barack Obama. In his mind all that matters is that the U.S is supposedly not "leading" this war a claim the Joint Chiefs of Staff has already contradicted because, hello, we're still America) and that we are part of a coalition. But who cares? Either we never get involved in internal conflicts, such as Libya, such as Iraq and such as so much of the Arab world, or sometimes we do. Barack Obama the candidate had no such nuance.

"The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq's leaders to resolve their civil war is to immediately begin to remove our combat troops," he said in that same 2007 speech where our troops would magically depart Iraq at a moment's notice. Somehow the best way to resolve Libya's civil war is to immediately send in troops.

The Iraq war, he once told us, was a "war of choice." As an American I would love for my president to inform me how he makes that war choice, how he made this particular choice. I have no idea why we're bombing Libya, and unlike my friends on the left I'm trying not to jump to the same conclusions they did about our last president regarding our intentions toward their oil.

That we know zero about our purpose in Libya, the president's rationale toward this war, what we may consider a win, all of it actually fits in with that empty suit who campaigned to be our president and who, in a time of confusion we actually chose. Are we removing Gadhafi? And replacing him with who, exactly? Will we build up the areas we bomb afterward? Is a Libyan democracy the end-goal? Do we have goals? Why is our president still in Brazil when we're at war?

All good questions Obama will answer with a "let me be clear" followed by no clarity at all.

Born in the Soviet Union and raised in Brooklyn, Karol Markowicz is a public relations consultant in NYC and a veteran of Republican campaigns in four states. She blogs about politics at Alarming News and about life in the city with her husband and baby at 212 BabyShe can be followed on Twitter.


More in:

Comments [6]


It seems Obama is considering his war of choice to be different than Bush's, because it has a UN mandate. But the UN mandate was to establish a no-fly zone, nothing more.

The coalition forces are now bombing all Libyan military assets including tanks and troops retreating to Tripoli. They are the defacto air force of the Libyan rebel groups.

We passed the "we broke it, we fix it" mark a few days ago. We are now on the hook for nation building in Libya. The only alternative is leaving it to a far more brutal humanitarian crisis than had we stayed out altogether.

Mar. 25 2011 11:56 AM
Gary from Brooklyn NY

I heard a comment on Tuesday 3/22/2011 (unfortunately I don't recall by whom or on what station) that we (the US) know very little about the Libyan opposition that we are supporting. The speaker mentioned that the same was true in the Soviet Republics in the 1990's, along with other examples.

The same was true in Iraq. VP Chaney said "I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators." The greeting never came, and we were totally unprepared for what would happen after Saddam Hussein's removal.

One thing is disconcertingly consistent: We have a long history of not knowing enough about the domestic opposition to tyrants who govern their countries contrary to the interests of their own people and of the United States. Can our intelligence community really be so deep in the dark, or is it just an act? As Casey Stengel once said, "Can't anybody here play this game?"

Mar. 22 2011 11:26 PM
Coach Rich from Murray Hill

As the wonderfully informed, and opinionated, military history expert ME had on this morning said "Bush demonstrated FALSE CLARITY in his reasons and justifications for going to war" as well as his predicted scenarios of victory and his duplicitous and silly time frame for an exit. And as he further went on to say, there never is a true--or accurate---exit plan---"never was, never will be". A 'false concept' that has no basis in the history of war. But a useful one to sucker the public with.
I have no idea why NPR thinks you are qualified to be here offering your perspective. But they have been off their game lately and obviously feel they must pander to the right somewhat. This will be as effective as Obama's misguided entreaties to the same obstructionist factions.
If I had Ms. Schiller's job I wouldn't see a need to entertain those who would deny my very existence, unless they could prove they were a paying supporter. And I would take a page out of the NYT playbook and not allow anyone to comment such as I am doing unless they had a paying membership as well. Let's monetize the right's desire to use a forum they wish did not exist.

Mar. 22 2011 06:30 PM
Karol from NYC

I actually knew we would agree on this, Justin. I have a lot of respect for you because I feel like you're a consistent liberal and don't change your core opinions based on which party is in control of which particular war.

I probably approve of many more military responses than you would but we're currently waging two wars (the myth of the end of combat operations in Iraq notwithstanding) and don't feel we should arbitrarily wage a third. This was a terrible idea.

Oh but happy birthday, Justin! Hope we're not still nation-building in Libya by your birthday next year. ;-)

Mar. 21 2011 01:14 PM
Justin Krebs from NYC

Karol -

Looks like we're agreeing on some points this time. I'm not sure you and I agree on when one should use force. We don't necessarily agree about the right approach to approving military intervention.

But I appreciate this paragraph:

"That we know zero about our purpose in Libya, the president's rationale toward this war, what we may consider a win, all of it actually fits in with that empty suit who campaigned to be our president and who, in a time of confusion we actually chose. Are we removing Gadhafi? And replacing him with who, exactly? Will we build up the areas we bomb afterward? Is a Libyan democracy the end-goal? Do we have goals?"

I agree it's problematic we don't have answers to these questions; that these questions were hardly debated; and that we don't have a track record upon which to guess the answers.

Check out my post on It's A Free Country...and for once we'll nod at each other for a day. Don't worry, I'm sure tomorrow, we'll find more to argue about again.

Mar. 21 2011 01:06 PM
Sunsetman from Rome, Italy

Libya war: sorry... who are the good guys?

Mar. 21 2011 12:52 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About It's A Free Blog

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a blog, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at



Supported by