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The Libyan War and Hindsight

I understand what Michael Cohen is trying to do here [1], but this is still wrong:

The instability in Libya, and its impact on the region, seemingly makes the case that the U.S. intervention is responsible for the disaster that followed. But at the time, the argument for U.S. involvement was strong, or at the very least quite defensible [bold mine-DL].

There were three main arguments for the intervention in the spring of 2011, and all of them were very weak when they were made and only looked worse over time. The first was that Gaddafi was preparing to slaughter the civilian population of Benghazi. That wasn’t [2] what he appeared to be threatening to do. That alone wouldn’t have been sufficient to invoke the “responsibility to protect” in any case. One of the more annoying aspects of the pro-intervention case was that the U.S. and its allies would hide behind the “responsibility to protect” mantra to gain international support for military action while flouting most of its requirements [3]. The second argument [4] was that by taking action against Gaddafi it would deter other dictators from abusing and killing their own people. This was the “we have to kill some Arabs to save the Arab Spring” argument. That didn’t make sense when interventionists said it four years ago, and in fact it proved to be completely wrong. In order to believe that other regimes would refrain from violent repression because of intervention in Libya, one would have to believe that there was a credible threat that they would face similar attacks. Most proponents of the Libyan war specifically said that Libya was an unusual case that was not likely to be repeated.

The third and weakest argument of all was that the U.S. was somehow compelled to intervene because some European and Arab governments wanted it to. This took different forms. One was that the U.S. “owed” European allies because of their support for our wars in the previous decade, and another was that the support of Arab regimes (several of which were cracking down on Bahrain’s protesters at the same time) “legitimized” the intervention and proved that the U.S. wasn’t acting against the wishes of the people in the region. In fact, the U.S. wasn’t obliged to indulge Britain and France in their war of choice, and the Arab regimes that were most enthusiastic for toppling Gaddafi were among the most despotic and least representative in the region and were the farthest away from Libya geographically. The governments closest to Libya didn’t want the intervention to happen (including the African states that the U.S. completely ignored), and regional popular opinion was always skeptical of Western intervention and only [4] became [5] more so [6] over time.

Opponents of the Libyan war aren’t relying on hindsight to fault Clinton for her bad judgment in backing intervention. We saw [7] the flaws in the case for intervention clearly from the start, and we explained them again and again to no avail. I doubt Clinton will pay any political price for once again making the wrong call on a foreign war, but there is no question that she should still be held to account for being a major supporter of an unwise, illegal, and unnecessary war.

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5 Comments To "The Libyan War and Hindsight"

#1 Comment By Sophie On November 5, 2015 @ 11:02 am

I just finished reading a book on Libya, which noted that during the first three days of the protests, the opposition had killed more than double the number of civilians that the government forces had – all of these being black skinned Libyans and workers from neighbouring countries. A whole town of black people descended from slaves were ethnically cleansed, and there is footage from RT on YouTube showing black people locked in animal cages at a zoo all tied up.

So the interventionists claimed – and continue to claim – that they ‘prevented a genocide’ (against which group?), while in reality collaborating in actual ethnic cleansing. At least a third of Libya’s population is now in exile in Egypt and Tunisia.

#2 Comment By Kieselguhr Kid On November 5, 2015 @ 11:29 am

I guess the thing that completely flummoxes me in Libya is — well, when Mr. Larison says that there were very good arguments against action in spring of 2011, it’s important to remember that the administration was making them. There were a group of hardcore folks — mostly Congressional Republicans, who in a later masterstroke of irony decided to obsess over Benghazi, where we wouldn’t have been in the first place but for them — pushing with all their might for intervention, and the Administration was being awfully reticent and cautious about it, and Gates was telling me that a SecDef who intervened in the Middle East should have his head examined and I for one appreciated the heck out of them for it. And then suddenly Clinton and Power and Slaughter did a full court press for intervention, and all that stuff just evaporated.

It’s not just that there was a good case against action. It’s that it had already been aired and heard and valued by the same people who suddenly blew it off.

#3 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 5, 2015 @ 11:55 am

“There were a group of hardcore folks — mostly Congressional Republicans, who in a later masterstroke of irony decided to obsess over Benghazi, where we wouldn’t have been in the first place but for them — pushing with all their might for intervention, and the Administration was being awfully reticent and cautious about it . . .”

Even I bought this and I don’t, following bad advise hardly the fault of the advisors. And let’s do atleast admit that Sec Clinton was one of those doing the advising.

Mr. Larison is far too kind. The list of poor advice and decisions made by the Sec. are not just on the adventure in Libya. The list is long and clear:

Afghanistan, Iraq, EGypt, Libya, Syria, Georgia, and the Ukraine. My guess is that the reticince on Chia and North Korea is soley because the Rose Law Firm has advised no few small number of corporations as they sent jobs overseas to those regions.

The worst part about liberals is not their unwholesome advances. But that when they go horribly or mildly awry, it is always someone else’s fault.

#4 Comment By Crime LT Blunder On November 5, 2015 @ 1:11 pm

“a major supporter of an unwise, illegal, and unnecessary war.”

… not to mention a disastrous one.

Clinton is good at breaking things. She leaves it to others to clean up the messes she makes. Her husband is no different.

#5 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 5, 2015 @ 1:14 pm

The other issue I have with the bad advise is that it pertains to circumstances not requiring such as expertise as one might need as to the law. No. Fresh off Afghanistan and Iraq, The admin. contrary to their entire case for the election, does a 180 degree turn. And here I fault advisors who no doubt pressured the executive to taking actions he had previously decided had reaped negative consequences.

And having taken on so many who advised for and supported the previous policies in this area, he gave in. So much for change one can believe in. At least the previous admin. was provoked by the events of Sept. 11.

Here a new executive again succumbed to bad advice and from advisors who were part the last ill advised effort, were now running away from it, of course blaming everyone but themselves. And in the case of Benghazi, the brazen lies about television videos against what was clearly negligence on the part of the State Department. And given the that the state Department advocated to advance the violence having no control over the actors –is directly responsible for what occurred. Not videos, but the admin. choice to advance the violence backfired and when warned in real time assessments — completely failed to act.

And given the authority to do so, the choice to focus on the politics instead of what clearly an emergency situation — falls directly on the State Department and the Sec. thereof.

And then instead if taking responsibility for the error, proceeded to cover up and obfiscate a routine after action investigation, turning the matter into a deeper reveal of utter irresponsible behavior.