The Washington Post editors must be kidding:

The Obama administration and its NATO allies bear responsibility for this mess because, having intervened to help rebels overthrow Gaddafi, they then swiftly exited without making a serious effort to help Libyans establish security and build a new political order. Congress might usefully probe why the administration allowed a country in which it initiated military operations to slide into chaos [bold mine-DL].

Anyone that paid attention to the Libyan war three years ago knows exactly why this happened. There was absolutely no support for a post-war stabilization force in Western countries or in the new Libyan government. Libya hawks were among the first to insist that the U.S. wouldn’t have to take on this responsibility, because they wanted to make an intervention seem as low-risk and easy as possible. Intervention was sold to a very skeptical public with the promise that it would not become a prolonged mission involving ground forces. Indeed, this was the only good thing about the Libyan war. Unlike some other missions advertised as short and easy, this one didn’t morph into an open-ended commitment. The political appeal of this sort of “good” intervention is that it is supposed to be relatively brief and free of Western casualties, but the trade-off is that the intervening governments write off the country and its neighbors once the operation is over. That makes the intervention “good” for those governments, but much less so for the people in the affected countries. That was more or less explicitly what U.S. and NATO said they would do while the war was still going on, so it should come as no surprise that this is what they did.

Assuming responsibility for establishing security and building a new political order out of the chaos that was always going to follow overthrowing the government is precisely what advocates for Libyan intervention said that the U.S. wouldn’t have to do. The administration gave the interventionists the war they wanted while trying to avoid the political and military headache that would come from being actively involved in stabilizing the country that the U.S. and its allies had just finished destabilizing. What interventionists can’t bring themselves to acknowledge is that the U.S. and its allies should never have attacked Libya if they weren’t prepared to take responsibility for the disorder they were helping to create. The U.S. and its allies obviously never had any intention to do this, and so it was irresponsible and wrong of them to intervene in the conflict, especially when they had no compelling reason to do so. More to the point, the U.S. and its allies would have been extremely foolish if they had compounded the original error of intervention by taking on a long-term stabilization role.

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