March Madness

How many Americans are really even paying attention to the actions in Libya?

This post is more a musing on the situation in Libya as much as it any attempt at actual analysis.  Really, it is mostly wondering out loud.  I wonder, specifically, how truly tuned in to the current situation, the most dramatic and intensive military action undertaken by the US military since the invasion of Iraq eight year ago (to the day), most American are.

We, as a country, were quite tuned in to the Afghanistan invasion as it was launched in the context of, and in response to, the 9/11 attacks.

Likewise, the build-up to the Iraq invasion of 2003 was very much part of long-term public focus.

The launching of massive cruise missile strikes yesterday, however, is probably not getting anywhere near the focus.  And yet, we have very possibly just gotten ourselves into a protracted and complicated engagement in Northern Africa.

Part of my “wondering” on this issue is because I have been more divorced than usual from news consumption over the last several days—indeed during the period of time that the UN Resolution was passed and when planes took to the skies of Libya and the cruise missiles began to fly.

On Friday during my commute (~45 minutes each way) I listened to non-political podcasts in the car (atypical for me, as I usually listen to a mix of NPR and the BBC with a intermingling of ESPN Radio).  That afternoon I took my oldest son to play 9 holes of golf (meaning that I was not I front of the computer or near a radio) and then spent much of Saturday working in the yard (again, listening to a non-political podcast) and helping my wife with a home improvement project.

It would have been extremely easy to have been utterly ignorant of the fact that the US military had launched a major military operation—an operation with the potential for long-term, significant implication for our country.

Now, because even when doing the things listed above I am still a habitual news-checker, I had seen, via brief encounters with my internet-connected computer, that allied fighter jets were engaging Gaddafi’s air force as hundreds of US cruise missiles rained down on military targets in the country.

But, a few choices in terms of news acquisition (or if I was a person who paid little attention to the news) and I could easily not even know about these actions.

I wonder how many Americans, focused on family, work, the yard, or the NCAA Tournament, are in such a position, i.e., utterly unaware (or, perhaps only vaguely aware) that the US has started yet another military engagement in the world.

This strikes me as a problematic situation—i.e., that more public awareness should be needed before such events are put into motion.

Ok, musings and wonderings done for the moment.

FILED UNDER: Africa, US Politics, World Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. john personna says:

    If any American armed forces are to die this week, where are they likely to be?

    Put attention there.

  2. John Peabody says:

    And how On earth did we go to war without a president addressing the nation from the oval office? Something’s not quite right. The presidential announcement came from Brazil, for pete’s sakes, and was scheduled so quickly there was no live television coverage. Timing bad news at the start of the weekend is a well-known tactic, and it works. I hate to be a typical Obama-basher, but sometimes it seems that a cigar is a cigar.

  3. John Burgess says:

    I wasn’t aware that we were ‘at war’. Looks more like a UN-sanctioned ‘police action’ to me.

    But yes, I’m watching the Libya thing. Far more entertaining than a bunch of jocks bouncing a ball around.

  4. ponce says:

    What’s to understand?

    America had to wait until a clear loser emerged before we backed them.

    As tired and predictable as a “Two and a Half Men” plot.

  5. Pete says:

    as hundreds of US cruise missiles rained down on military targets in the country.

    Steven, a little exaggeration, perhaps?

  6. Neil Hudelson says:


    Over a hundred tomahawk cruise missiles have been launched into Libya…so not really an exaggeration at all.

  7. ponce says:

    “Over a hundred tomahawk cruise missiles have been launched into Libya”

    At a cost of over $1 million a pop.

    What budget crisis?

  8. @Pete:

    The first wave of cruise missile attacks was reported at 112 (source). Since I assuming that more than one wave will be involved (and recalling past example of US cruise missiles being used to degrade the air defenses of a country), I would say no exaggeration whatsoever.

  9. Wiley Stoner says:

    A big waste of money. One B2 or two with the idea of targeting Gaddafi himself, in response to Lockerbie would have allowed deniablity as well as an end to the problem all at once. This whole thing is a day late and just a few sense short. Obama waited until the rebels were on the ropes before he jumped in to the fight. Had he put these acts into motion 3 weeks ago, but then that would have taken leadship. We know about Obama and leadership.

  10. John Burgess says:

    @ponce: I’m hearing it’s only half a mil. per pop.

  11. John Burgess says:

    An MSNBC interview was my source.

  12. Herb says:

    At a cost of over $1 million a pop.

    What budget crisis?
    Well…..were you planning on returning these missiles for a refund or something?

    Seems to me that spending a million per missile and then never using them would be a bigger waste of money than using them for their designed purpose, but I’m willing to accept that opinions differ.

  13. Neil Hudelson says:

    I hope with this NFZ in place, the Senate finds it in their hearts to defund Planned Parenthood. As a prolifer, I think we could really use that money to build some more missiles.

  14. Neil Hudelson says:

    er, “Senate” should have read “Congress.”

  15. B. Minich says:

    What strikes me is that this is the consequence of the President slowly but surely taking control of this from Congress. (And, to be fair, Congress being more then happy to give up that responsibility.) One of the benefits of having to get Congressional approval is that you have to convince Congress that the war you want is in the national interest, and that public debate takes place with the American people being aware of the case, and pressuring Congress accordingly. Now, with just the Executive branch doing this, people rightly assume there’s nothing they can do and go from there.

  16. MSS says:

    March Madness? Here that means having a hard time keeping up with Spring Training for all the Arab-world and Japan news there is to catch up on every day!