Could Libya Be the Next Iraq for the United States?

Critics argue a no-fly zone is not too far ahead of military boots on the ground.

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Last night, the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution to establish a no-fly zone over Libya. Military forces are preparing for airstrikes against Libya’s air defense system. The move comes after weeks of battles between long-time Libyan autocrat Muammar Qadhafi and rebels. In response to the U.N. resolution, Libyans took to the streets to celebrate, and imams used mosque loudspeakers to should, “Allahu akbar,” God is great. Qadhafi’s regime declared a cease-fire on Friday, with Libya’s foreign minister announcing the “stoppage of all military operations.” It’s unclear what will happen next, but some in the United States have said they fear intervention could escalate into a repeat of the Iraq War.

A no-fly zone is not too many steps ahead of military boots on the ground, U.S. News blogger Alvin Felzenberg argued before the U.N.’s decision. “Televised coverage of American bombs falling on Muslims in but a third Muslim country will not improve the U.S. standing in the world, whatever its intentions,” Felzenberg writes, questioning the wisdom and motivations for intervention. “Should great nations go to war on behalf of ‘new beginnings’ and a ‘chance’?”

Lawmakers have also been drawing a line from Iraq to Libya. “You have to think these things through,” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters earlier this month. “One thing I’ve learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, you have to think these things through.”

The New Republic’s Lawrence Kaplan argues that this is a false comparison. He says U.S. leaders should recognize the major discrepancies between Libya today and Iraq when President Bush was looking for weapons of mass destruction. He writes:

The difference between an essentially American enterprise and an undertaking that has the sanction of the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, … the difference between a dictator whose crimes (presumably) belonged to the past and one who vows to “cleanse Libya house by house” and, by all accounts, has proved himself keen to do so; the difference between Iraq, with no viable opposition movement, and Libya, which boasts an active and well-armed rebel force; the difference between a country frozen in the amber of authoritarianism a decade ago and an entire region awash in a wave of successful popular uprisings today.

What do you think? Could Libya be the next Iraq for the United States? Take the poll and post your thoughts below.

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Previously: Should the United States temporarily put the brakes on building new nuclear power plants?