Three Years After US Intervention, Libya's an Even Bigger Disaster

Are these the "#results" Obama wanted?


Libya suffered through an eventful St. Patrick's Day on Monday: car bomb attacks in Benghazi killed at least eight people, and the U.S. Navy SEALs scored "one for the Morning Glory" by capturing the runaway oil tanker bearing that name in order to return it to the Libyan government, such as it is.

Earlier this month, the North Korean-flagged tanker switched off its satellite transponder–a device that could probably do without an "off" button–and sneaked into Libya's largest oil port, whereupon Libyans linked to a breakaway eastern militia made off with millions of dollars in oil. But the return of the Morning Glory hardly fixes the problems confronting Libya.

Three years ago today, President Obama announced that America would "not stand idly by in the face of actions that undermine global peace and security;" he'd decided to order military action in "support for a set of universal values." The next day, the bombing began.

How did that work out? Splendidly! says one of the principal architects of the war, former National Security Council official Samantha Power. Last summer, after becoming U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Power tweeted: "Great example: Qadhafi fell because the Libyan people bravely stood up, the U.S. stood strong, and the Arab League stood united. #Results."

Let's test that self-congratulatory hashtag against what a top official from the previous administration once contemptuously called the "judicious study of discernible reality." "Political Killings Still Plaguing Post-Qaddafi Libya" is the headline from The New York Times last week, reporting, "[M]ore than 100 prominent figures, senior security officials, judges and political activists have been assassinated in two years, and the wave of killings is decimating local leadership and paralyzing the government and security forces." Unrest has likewise decimated Libya's oil production, and "militias hold 8,000 people in prisons."

But didn't we at least stop a genocide? That's what State Department legal adviser Harold Koh suggested in an interview. Koh, previously an ardent opponent of presidential warmaking, gave Obama legal cover for Libya, arguing that bombing Libya didn't count as "hostilities" under the War Powers Resolution.

Koh defends that decision by insisting that "thousands of lives were saved"—which isn't much of a legal argument. It's also not true.

As political scientist Alan J. Kuperman pointed out at the time, Obama "grossly exaggerated the humanitarian threat to justify military action in Libya."

Kuperman explained in another article, Moammar Gadhafi "did not perpetrate a 'bloodbath' in any of the cities that his forces recaptured from rebels prior to NATO intervention … so there was virtually no risk of such an outcome if he had been permitted to recapture the last rebel stronghold of Benghazi." Meanwhile, wrote Kuperman, "[b]y intervening, NATO enabled the rebels to resume their attack, which prolonged the war for another seven months and caused at least 7,000 more deaths."

In the run-up to the war, George Will asked a pointed question: "Would not U.S. intervention in Libya encourage other restive peoples to expect U.S. military assistance?"

"Perhaps it would," Will's Washington Post colleague Jackson Diehl replied a week later, shortly before the bombing began. "Would that be a disaster?"

It seems it was. As Kuperman observed, "NATO's intervention on behalf of Libya's rebels also encouraged Syria's formerly peaceful protesters to switch to violence in mid-2011, in hopes of attracting a similar intervention. The resulting escalation in Syria magnified that country's killing rate by tenfold."

Three years later, Obama's Libyan adventure looks like a moral vanity project carried out by careless people who couldn't be bothered to worry about unintended consequences. #Results, indeed.

This column originally appeared in the Washington Examiner.

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  1. Sometimes the devil you know…

    1. The worst part is, big of a scumbag as Qaddafi was, he’d quit screwing with us and other Western nations.

      1. He wasn’t a politically convenient ally anymore.

  2. And this surprises no one who was paying attention and has a brain. You really can’t overstate how stupid our foreign policy and political and media classes are.

    Had the US and NATO not done anything, chances are Kadafi would have put the rebellion down and the country would still at least have a government. But thanks to NATO coming in and randomly bombing people, Kadafi lost and the country has fallen into chaos. Kadafi was a lousy leader and his government horrible. But rule by Islamist militia is a lot worse.

    I said at the time that the worst thing the US could do would be to half ass an intervention. If you want to get into the business of overthrowing governments, you better be willing to send in the Army like we did in Iraq so that you have some control over who is in charge and you can ensure some kind of government is built to replace the old one. Whatever you want to say about Iraq, it is not like Libya is now.

    If you don’t want to go in and occupy and ensure some kind of positive outcome, stay the hell out of it. The US had no interest in the Libyan civil war and intervened anyway but made up for it by making things much worse than they would have been otherwise.

    1. Our half-assed approach to Libya resulted in four dead Americans, our Ambassador being dragged through the streets like a piece of meat and our Embassy set on fire.

      Years ago this would be an impeachable offense for all involved, now you have morons calling it a “fake” scandal.

      I hope Hillary runs just so we can rehash this whole story all over again.

      1. I think protecting the lives of American diplomats abroad counts as a core competency for a President and a DOS.

        At a very minimum, Hillary should have had her sorry ass put to the curve over that.

        1. What infuriates me is the way that the left has defended her majesty as if she is above all of this controversy, and wasn’t actually in charge of the State Department. Never mind President Not My Fault, I expect him to shirk any responsibility, that’s what he does.

          But Hillary took the job at State in order to boost her foreign policy credentials, and the result was a murdered Ambassador and the embassy burnt to the ground.

          No one has been reprimanded, fired or jailed. It’s just pathetic.

        2. Nor have the killers been caught.

          One of the leaders was overheard in public bragging about his role and scoffing at the US saying, “what can they do?”.

    2. Disaster? Try $1 trillion and 4500 US soldiers wasted for nothing in Iraq.

      Libya is just another failed state.

      1. crack cork, wasssup

      2. If relativism somehow didn’t exist you would never post again.

        It physically repulses me to think of you having children but I can’t imagine you would encourage yours if one constantly said, “But he did it first” when accused of some wrong.

  3. “a moral vanity project carried out by careless people who couldn’t be bothered to worry about unintended consequences…”

    Is this about Obamacare, foreign policy, or every damn thing the Federal Government does?

    1. or every damn thing the Federal Government does?

      Not everything the Federal Government does is a vanity project. Some things are actually in the constitution. Unfortunately the Fed. Gov. does WAY too many things they shouldn’t.

  4. Mission accomplished! Fake scandal!

  5. Remember how Shreek and MNG and Tony all claimed that Libya was this fabulous foreign policy success? Those of use who pointed out that a lot of the people we were helping with our bombs were not our friends and how pushing a nation into chaos doesn’t look like much of a success were just racist Teabagging bastards who couldn’t get over the fact that we had a black President.

  6. Spending money with no results?

    Might be a government run program.

  7. Three years later, Obama’s Libyan adventure looks like a moral vanity project carried out by careless people who couldn’t be bothered to worry about unintended consequences.

    Isn’t there an Iron Law that’s relevant here? Something like foreseeable consequences aren’t unintended?

  8. whereupon Libyans linked to a breakaway eastern militia made off with millions of dollars in oil

    Wait, I thought the eastern militia composed what is laughably called the government of Libya? So what will returning the oil to the government do exactly?

  9. So now American Special Forces are the security guards for EU’s oil companies?

    How do PC-Progressives square that circle?

    Profoundly against American interests, the PC-Prog foreign intervention circus continues its grand tour. Searching for a World War so they can maintain Obama’s handlers’ stranglehold on America.

    May, 2011:

    “Of course, the CIA will not refuse orders from Obama’s office to carry out covert action in Libya. But for anyone who understands the Bay of Pigs debacle, the political fallout, and the damage inflicted on the CIA, it is only right that we should fear the same damage and downward spiral from the upcoming Obama/Hillary Libyan covert action.”


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