Jesse Walker catches Rubio in one of the more absurd lies of the night during last night’s debate. Rubio claimed that the U.S. and its allies weren’t responsible for toppling the regime. Walker sets the record straight:
This is a highly misleading account of how Marco Rubio sold the war. It was in no sense clear that Qaddafi was bound to be overthrown either “quickly” or in “a long time,” especially given that Rubio seems to define “a long time” to mean eight months. The argument for intervention was that if U.S. didn’t insert itself, Qaddafi would—in Rubio’s words—”get away with crushing [the rebellion] through brutal force.”
As I mentioned shortly after Rubio said this, the idea that “the Libyan people toppled Gaddafi” glossed over the essential role that outside intervention played in causing the regime’s defeat:
Absent U.S. and allied intervention, the rebels would have lost. That was the point of intervening–to stop that from happening
— Daniel Larison (@DanielLarison) February 26, 2016
Rubio now wants to claim prescience and insight by saying that he knew that Gaddafi would fall sooner or later, but when intervention was being debated he was arguing for military action because he didn’t think regime change would occur without U.S.-led interference. He wants to take credit for his supposed understanding of the situation, but the record shows that he was reflexively in favor of overthrowing a foreign government that was being challenged by an armed uprising, and he favored doing this because he feared that the uprising was in danger of being defeated. Because of the chaos and violence that followed regime change in Libya, he also wants to avoid responsibility for his advocacy of an interventionist policy that went awry, and so he pretends that the U.S. and its allies weren’t critical to bringing about regime change. Like many hawks, Rubio wants to be praised for supporting activist and meddlesome policies, but he doesn’t want to be blamed for the disastrous consequences of those policies. As a reflexive interventionist, Rubio is quick to urge the U.S. to “do something” but fails to think through the costs and risks of unnecessary war.