The Hillary Doctrine: Create Instability, Wing it, Then Refuse to 'Retreat'

The Democratic frontrunner takes the exact wrong lesson from an illegal, ill-advised war


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In her opening statement to the Benghazi Select Committee this morning, former Secretary of State and current Democratic Party 2016 presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton continued to justify the United States' 2011 intervention in Libya in terms that should be worrying to the wide swath of the American polity that has grown allergic to haphazardly-planned, open-ended military conflicts:

America must lead in a dangerous world, and our diplomats must continue representing us in dangerous places. […]

We have learned the hard way when America is absent, especially from unstable places, there are consequences. […]

Retreat from the world is not an option. America cannot shrink from our responsibility to lead.

Under questioning, Clinton also characterized the Libya intervention as "remarkable," echoing her assertion last week that it was "smart power at its best."

What's more remarkable is how this justification translates as doctrine. President Barack Obama's official justification for this pre-emptive war of choice was that it was necessary to prevent "a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world." The president "refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action."

Bar thus lowered, the president—actively pushed by his more-interventionist secretary of state—then refused to seek congressional approval for the initial attack, refused to withdraw troops after 60 days in the absence of said congressional approval (in defiance of the War Powers Resolution), ignored the advice of his own Office of Legal Counsel to comply with the Act, chose instead the legal advice of the White House Counsel, and then declared with a straight face in an imperious letter to Congress that America's war-making did not amount to the WPR's definition of "hostilities."

It was a remarkably Cheneyesque flourish, particularly for a man who campaigned heavily on the notion that "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." So what Hillary Clinton is doing today is reiterating that she doesn't even feel the need to pretend to care about restraints on the White House's war-making authority.

It gets worse. So, America must act in open defiance of Congress before there's a potential massacre in the Middle East, but does it need to, you know, plan this stuff out? Not according to then-secretary of defense Robert Gates, an internal opponent to the intervention, who has just told The Daily Beast that "We were playing it by ear." The Beast's Nancy A. Youssef continues:

[American] attacks spread from the eastern city of Benghazi, where civilians were endangered, to the Libyan capital of Tripoli, 635 miles away. No one ever explained why the change in goal or who might succeed Gaddafi afterward.

During revolutionary-era Libya, no one in the upper ranks of the U.S. government seriously considered whether the newly created Transitional National Council, a rival government in rebel-held areas like Benghazi, could govern the oil-rich state. Nor did Clinton or top leaders ask about unintended consequences of an air campaign, especially if it successfully ended Gaddafi's 42-year rule, according to the senior defense official who was part of the conversation at the time. And as the country was falling apart, it seems no one in the higher reaches of Clinton's department took note. If they did, they did not take action.

Even if you chalk the above up to payback from disgruntled former colleagues, and unfair renderings from a hostile journalist, there is no denying the facts on the ground. The results of America's intervention bear little resemblance to what Democratic cheerleaders were bragging about in August 2011. Libya has transformed from a shitty country misruled by a dictator to an open civil-war zone spitting out terrorists, refugees, and regional instability.

So what's Hillary Clinton's response to the instability she helped cause? To say the magical phrase, Retreat from the world is not an option. In other words, lather, rinse, repeat. And, if you happen to be an American on the front lines of Washington's carelessness, die.