Lessons in Libya

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In this week’s issue of the magazine, now available on tablets and the web to subscribers, Fareed Zakaria argues the U.S.’s restrained role in the Libya campaign was everything the invasion of Iraq wasn’t:

In deciding whether to intervene, President Obama was clearly trying to avoid the mistakes of Iraq. He insisted on a set of conditions before he would involve the U.S. in the operation. First, there had to be a local opposition movement that was willing and able to wage war against the dictator. Any international action had to be requested by the locals. Second, given the nature of the Arab world, it was important to gain regional legitimacy and ensure that outside intervention in Libya was not denounced as another example of Western imperialism in Muslim lands. Even Arab countries were drawn into the coalition. Third, a broader, legal legitimacy was sought through the U.N. And finally, European allies who were pressing for intervention were put on notice that the operation would have to be genuinely multilateral, with them bearing significant costs.

Bobby Ghosh looks ahead in Libya and argues its lessons can’t — won’t — apply to Syria:

For the moment, Syria’s revolutionaries may have to be content with cosmetic similarities. They cannot hope for the level of foreign assistance that was available to the Libyans. Although NATO and the Obama Administration have hailed Gaddafi’s ouster as a vindication of their aerial campaign against him, nobody’s talking about taking that plan into Syrian skies. “We don’t think that military action is the way to go with Syria,” says a senior Obama Administration official. For one thing, Assad’s military has far greater firepower than Gaddafi’s. For another, the Arab League has not called for foreign interference in Syria, as it did in Libya. Gaddafi had few allies, but Assad has one nobody wants to bait: Iran.

You can pick up an issue on newsstands Friday or subscribe to read the stories online.

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