The Buzz

Libya Forgotten

Earlier this morning, former secretary of state Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for reelection in 2012 during an interview with CBS. It’s unclear what effect this will have on the campaign, but there is one line in his comments that is certainly worth noting. Discussing the Obama administration’s foreign policy, Powell said that he

saw the president get us out of one war, start to get us out of a second war, and did not get us into any new wars.

It is truly amazing that only a year and a half after the Libyan intervention, a general as distinguished as Powell can talk as if it simply never happened. Leave the debate over whether the intervention was a good idea aside. The United States (along with NATO) used armed force for months to help overthrow Muammar el-Qaddafi’s regime in Libya. With this in mind, the fact that Powell can say that Obama “did not get us into any new wars” and that no one at CBS even blinked an eye in response speaks volumes about the warped way in which we have come to think about war.

Of course, the Obama administration claimed that Libya did not amount to war, as “American involvement fell short of full-blown hostilities.” But this is hardly convincing. Stephen Walt put it best at the time when he said in response:

By any reasonable, common-sense standard, in short, we are at war. It doesn't matter that we aren't using our full strength to help the rebels or that other states are doing more than we are. The plain fact is that the United States is using its military forces and intelligence capabilities to attack Libyan forces. In plain English, we are killing (or helping to kill) Qaddafi loyalists (and occasionally innocent civilians), in an openly-acknowledged campaign to drive him from power. Sounds like war to me, and to anybody else who isn't being paid to find ways to evade or obscure reality.