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Clinton’s War of Choice

One part of Clinton’s debate answer on the Libyan war was a reminder of how lousy the case for intervention was from the beginning:

We had our closest allies in Europe burning up the phone lines begging us to help them try to prevent what they saw as a mass genocide, in their words. And we had the Arabs standing by our side saying, ‘We want you to help us deal with Gadhafi.’

Put another way, a handful of allies and clients from Europe and the Gulf wanted the U.S. to enable a war they wanted to fight, and Clinton thinks that this was reason enough for the U.S. to get involved. If a couple allies were “burning the up the phone lines” asking for U.S. support, that is because they lacked the means to fight their war of choice on their own. While Clinton wanted to insist that the U.S. role was only a supportive one, this part of her answer shows that U.S. involvement was crucial to making the intervention happen and that the U.S. could have easily avoided the conflict.

For all her boasting about the multilateral nature of the intervention, Clinton predictably didn’t mention here that far more governments in Europe, in the region, and around the world were skeptical or flatly opposed to another U.S.-led war for regime change. None of Libya’s African neighbors supported the intervention, since they understood that they would be coping with the intervention’s aftermath, and the Arab governments that supported the war obviously did so only because of their loathing for Gaddafi and not because of any concern for Libya’s civilian population. There was never much likelihood of a “mass genocide” or anything like it in Libya, but this is the official line that Clinton will keep parroting until she is challenged to explain why she advocated for taking the U.S. into another unnecessary and ill-conceived war.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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