Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton—the former Secretary of State who in 2011 aggressively pushed President Obama to intervene militarily in Libya’s civil war—still defends the intervention which took out dictator Muammar Gaddafi as “smart power at its best,” even though it resulted in a power vacuum that has left the North African nation in a new state of civil war, with a substantial ISIS presence. One U.S. general called Libya a “failed state” earlier this year.
Those inclined to give Clinton a pass for what’s become of Libya will point to reports at the time that Gaddafi was about to unleash a massacre on civilians in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. This supposed massacre-in-waiting continues to be the go-to excuse for the Obama administration’s decision to join NATO allies in airstrikes which helped rebel forces topple the Gaddafi regime.
The problem is, according to a recently released U.K. Parliament Select Committee report, that thinking “was not informed by accurate intelligence” and in short order, “the limited intervention to protect civilians had drifted into an opportunist policy of regime change.”
Though the report ultimately holds former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron “responsible for the failure to develop a coherent Libya strategy,” blame is laid at the feet of the international community for hastily supporting a what it wanted to believe was a humanitarian intervention but which directly lead to “political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa.”
Assessing the evidence used to justify intervention, the Select Committee writes:
We have seen no evidence that the UK Government carried out a proper analysis of the nature of the rebellion in Libya. It may be that the UK Government was unable to analyse the nature of the rebellion in Libya due to incomplete intelligence and insufficient institutional insight and that it was caught up in events as they developed. It could not verify the actual threat to civilians posed by the Gaddafi regime; it selectively took elements of Muammar Gaddafi’s rhetoric at face value; and it failed to identify the militant Islamist extremist element in the rebellion. UK strategy was founded on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the evidence. (emphasis added)
Essentially, Cameron and his NATO allies cherry-picked evidence to justify the intervention and failed to think even one step ahead once the dictator fell. Sound familiar?
Clinton may regret her support for the disastrous Iraq War, but she has shown no indication that she’ll budge an inch in reassessing her ownership of the debacle that is Libya.
Earlier this month at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) Commander in Chief forum, Clinton was asked by a veteran who identified as a Democrat, “How do you respond to progressives like myself who worry and have concerns that your hawkish foreign policy will continue?”
Clinton’s replied that she views “force as a last resort, not a first choice,” but that with regards to Libya, “I think taking that action was the right decision. Not taking it, and permitting there to be an ongoing civil war in Libya, would have been as dangerous and threatening as what we are now seeing in Syria.”
This is amazing statement from a candidate who is running largely on her foreign policy expertise and sound judgment. Libya IS in a state of civil war and while the body count might not rise to the humanitarian catastrophe that is Syria, there is no better descriptor that can be placed on what post-intervention Libya looks like than what President Obama called it earlier this year—a “shit show.”