That conflict with Qadhafi took too long. Had the U.S. engaged fully and decisively, the conflict would have ended sooner. We would have less independent militias [sic]— and it would have been easier for a central government to take root and become in control of the country [bold mine-DL].
The trouble for Rubio here is that there is nothing that backs up what he’s saying. Even with “full” and “decisive” U.S. intervention, a purely aerial campaign by the U.S. and its allies would have taken a long time. It certainly would have lasted long enough for the country to be left in the hands of militias by the end. Kosovo took two and a half months in spite of a larger U.S. role, and the Libyan war was always likely to take longer than that because of the much more ambitious goal of toppling the government. A post-Gaddafi Libya would have been under the control of militias made up by anti-regime fighters one way or the other. The central government would have continued to be just as weak and ineffectual as it has been. Besides, a nascent transitional government wasn’t just going to “become in control” of the country, to use Rubio’s awkward phrase, but would have had to establish that control through the use of forces that it directly controlled, and those forces simply didn’t and couldn’t have existed in the months immediately following the fall of Gaddafi.
Knocking out a regime in a country is going to produce the chaos and disorder that followed whether that regime change happens sooner or later, and that is especially true in a country with a history of weak institutions. Hawkish supporters of the intervention in Libya own the consequences of the war as it was actually fought. They don’t get to excuse their extraordinarily bad judgment by saying, “Yeah, but, if you had just fought it this way everything would be fine.” The Libyan war was a terrible blunder from the start, and hawks don’t get to wash their hands of a war they backed all along. Either Rubio is saying that outside forces should have been deployed indefinitely in Libya to maintain order, in which case he is talking about an open-ended occupation (and the casualties that would have gone along with that), or he is just quibbling over the execution of a war that he eagerly supported. Regardless, this effort to distance himself from the consequences of a war he favored should be seen for the desperate, self-serving move that it is.