Judging from my inbox, many readers interpreted this week’s column, which examines the perils inherent in the liberal interventionist style of warfare, as an implicit defense of the Bush administration’s rather different approach to the invasion of Iraq. (There were hints of a similar critique from Adam Serwer and Andrew Sullivan as well.) This was not my intention at all: As I’ve suggested before, I think that the Iraq War was a mistake in its conception and a botch in its execution, and I wouldn’t be supportive of our Libya intervention if it were being undertaken à la Rumsfeld (or John Bolton) rather than à la Samantha Power. My point, rather, was to push back against the conceit that the form of a war can vindicate its strategy that what matters most in warfare is whether you’re “part of U.N. Security Council approved action” and whether the Arab League gives you the go-ahead, and that merely invoking the Obama White House’s multilateralism is sufficient to prove that our Libyan venture is far more responsible than the invasion of Iraq.
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