COMMENTARY | Both Republicans and Democrats had been critical of the Obama administration getting the already beleaguered U.S. armed forces involved in the situation in Libya about five months ago. Now, though, it would seem the strategy President Obama put into play is starting to pay off. As the country moves toward its own freedom, apparently shrugging off the shackles of Col. Muammar Gadhafi after over four decades of dictatorial control of the country, surely some praise will be coming Obama's way?
Not quite, actually.
Republicans are asking why it took so long to take down Gadhafi. They also are wringing their hands over the billion dollar check that had to be cut to pay for our part in supporting the Libyan rebels. Perhaps the GOP is forgetting that President George W. Bush got the United States into two separate wars in search of one man, Osama bin Laden, and in eight years he never was brought to justice? It was, in fact, operations of Seal Team Six, under orders from Obama, who was able to finally find and kill bin Laden, nearly 10 years after the first troops hit the ground in Afghanistan.
Perhaps they've not looked at the bill for the War on Terror which includes the wars in Iraq in Afghanistan. Incidentally, it's about $1.2 trillion for the two wars combined, or approximately 1,200 times the cost of U.S. operations in Libya. More money is spent every two weeks in Afghanistan than was spent in the entire five-month operation in Libya. So are we to surmise that when it comes to signing checks for wars, as long as it's a Republican signing the check, money is no object?
The bottom line is that, just as was the case in Egypt earlier in the year, the U.S. engagement in Libya has proved one thing: It doesn't take trillions of dollars and thousands of lives to topple dictators and make life truly safer for a country's citizens. In fact, in the case of Egypt, all America did (at least publicly) is declare support for the Egyptian people. Then we sat back and let the natural course of democracy run. While there were certainly more resources dedicated to the cause in Libya, the fact remains that a mere fraction of the time and money and virtually zero troop involvement from the United States has helped a country's own people accomplish the main objective.
To the point of how long it took for operations to succeed in Libya -- keeping in mind that there has been no ground offensive -- remember that it took thousands of troops on the ground in Iraq nine months to capture Saddam Hussein. Someone may also want to point out that over eight years after Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" and major military involvement in Iraq over, we're still in that country. It's absolutely puzzling that anyone on the right would be critical of the time frame for our operations in Libya.
When you compare apples to apples, or rather military operations in a foreign country in an effort to depose a cruel dictator to other military operations in a foreign country in an effort to depose a cruel dictator, there's a major distinction between Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. That distinction, of course, is cost. It simply cost much less in terms of money, lives and resources to assist in Libya than it did to run the whole show in the other two countries.
In a time when spending seems to be the only thing that keeps Republicans awake at night, the question remains why they choose to hyper-focus on Libya rather than the continually skyrocketing costs of the War on Terror.