America’s limited intervention and the persuasive power of favourable situations.

Posted on September 9, 2011


Here we are, after two Bush mandates, witnessing Obama’s rather revolutionary approach to American foreign policy. He had talked of withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, of reducing nuclear armaments. He now admits the country cannot continue spending billions for exotic ventures and that with a drop in military expenditure, it would be possible to build those infrastructures that, on American soil, have stopped developing in the 70s.

Although tempting, the prospect of an isolationist stance is out of question. The US played a contradictory though discrete role in the Libyan civil war, deploying great firepower under the form of cruise missiles, remote-controlled bomber drones and satellite intelligence worth millions in dollars but avoiding open engagement.

“The question before Libya was: Could such interventions be successful while keeping costs under control – both human and financial.

Today’s answer is: Yes.”

Fareed Zakaria (also the author of the quote above) wrote for the CNN that the conflict in Libya marks ‘A new era in U.S. foreign policy’: he reports $1 billion spent in Libya compared to over $1 trillion spent for both Iraq and Afghanistan calling, it a bargain. But where is the bargain praised by Zakaria? What has been semi-achieved now in almost 6 months ( the fall of an enemy regime, in this case under the form of  Gaddafi’s ) had been achieved in Afghanistan in 2 months (with the conquest of Kandahar as the last Taliban stronghold) and in Iraq in less than 3 weeks(with the taking of Baghdad and the fall of Hussein) . Whether either operation has been a success is highly debatable.

The point is that Libya ended up being ‘a bargain’ due to its position on the Mediterranean which meant close proximity to NATO, British, Italian and French military bases from which intensive bombing campaigns could be launched mainly by European countries (which have greater interests in Libya) without needing any support beyond the initial and vitally important suppression of Gaddafi’s air defences in 3 days. The rebels would have not won the war without the largely European air-raids which would have not been possible themselves without the suppression of air defences by American strikes. Ultimately, without an uprising, there would have been no land-troops to support and Gaddafi would still be in power today, controlling Libya’s oil and  spreading his anti-European and anti-American doctrine to the Libyan people.

Such a favourable situation can arguably be considered one of a kind while it does not prove that America can retain its role as the world’s leading superpower through the means of’limited intervention.

Here’s a link to Zakaria’s article:

Posted in: Opinion