The simple answer is this; ‘intervention’ in Iraq was for all the wrong reasons while intervention in Libya is for all the right reasons. I know that sounds a bit self-righteous, but please read on because the full answer is nowhere near as simple.
The Left were vehemently against the West invading Iraq while the neocons were all for it but now both the Left and the neocons are all for intervention in Libya. So what’s the difference? Already one can see the difference; invasion is different from intervention and the recently passed resolution (UNSC Resolution 1973) authorising action in Libya makes it clear that there is to be no invasion of Libya. The other obvious difference, of course, is the fact that there was never any specific UN resolution that authorised an invasion of Iraq. In other words, Iraq was never invaded primarily for any ‘humanitarian’ reasons while Libya is being intervened in solely for humanitarian reasons.
But there are also other perhaps not so clear differences between the Left and the neocons, and the most important of these goes to motivation. Whereas the Left see things in very black and white terms, i.e., it’s either right or it’s wrong, the neocons invariably have an ulterior motive for most of the actions they advocate.
For example, the Left support the rebels in Libya for no other reason than they are fighting against a tyrant who has shown a willingness to kill his own people. The Left has a heartfelt sympathy for those that have been oppressed. For the neocons though, their support for the rebels is purely for propaganda purposes. If the neocons thought for one moment that supporting the rebels was not in the interests of Israel or the US, they would not support the intervention. It’s one of the fundamental differences between the ideological Left and the extreme right-wing; the Left puts the human rights of all peoples first, the cause of human rights comes before any other cause. For the neocons, though, support of human rights is a charade; they only pretend to support human rights. In fact, neocons have already shown their true colours and demonstrated their contempt of human rights by their support of America’s torture policies of prisoners and their policy of keeping prisoners in cruel and tortuous conditions without access to impartial courts of justice even while they hypocritically and vehemently criticise the human rights violations of their enemies.
Initially, as the Libyan rebellion lost momentum and Gaddafi began fighting back, there were some on the Left that were against Western intervention simply because the neocons were for it. There was a fear that, if the neocons were for it, there was some sort of skulduggery afoot. There was also some confusion among the Left about whether or not the Libyan rebels themselves wanted intervention. And, of course, the American desire for intervention was reflexively always likely to be viewed with suspicion by the Left anyway – which brings us full circle as to the difference between what happened in Iraq and what is happening in Libya.
The only similarity between Iraq and Libya is that both had vicious totalitarian leaders that ruled with an iron fist, but there the similarities end. The fact that Saddam Hussein ruled with an iron fist was merely a handy excuse to give to the Western peoples as to why Saddam should go. In reality, the neocons wanted to be rid of Saddam because he was a threat to Israel and, in getting rid of Saddam, the neocons and the West could kill several birds with one stone. First, it got him off the back of the Israelis who were fighting against the Palestinians in the Second Intifada that Saddam was supporting and, secondly, in getting rid of Saddam and occupying Iraq the US would gain considerable hegemony in the resource rich Middle East and, at the same time, put themselves on Iran’s doorstep. They were the real reasons why the US and the West invaded Iraq.
Libya is completely different from Iraq. The sole reason the US and the West wants to intervene in Libya is because it is the right thing to do for the people of Libya. The only reason the neocons support it is because it is part of their propaganda and rhetoric about wanting ‘democracy’ to prevail throughout the Middle East – providing it’s the sort of ‘democracy’ that the US can control in order to ensure the security of Israel and their quest to create a Greater Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people.
For the neoconservatives, it is always, always, about Israel. Nothing else.