Libya is in chaos. It's a festering pit of radicalism, anarchy and death, epitomizing everything that can go wrong when Western intervention has no clear long-term purpose. And a woman who believes she should be president of the United States—ostensibly on the strength of her decision-making abilities as secretary of state—believes that what's going on in Libya is a success.
This point seems pertinent. So beyond any facts surrounding the American deaths in Benghazi, the blatant lying about her computer server or whatever else Republicans may or may not uncover about Hillary Clinton, one of the most politically relevant topics examined by the House Benghazi Committee is her insistence that Libya was not a "disaster."
Over and over, in fact, Clinton argued that Libyans had elected "moderates" and that democracy had thrived and that all things were peachy (though she does concede there were security risks). And she was still praising the Arab Spring long after its collapse into violent radicalism across the Arab world.
At first I wondered, how could she maintain something so obviously contestable? Then I realized, how could she not?
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) spent his entire time attempting to push Clinton to own the Libya intervention. Democrats joked on Twitter that Roskam had conclusively proved that yes, Clinton was secretary of state. But it was much more.
She reiterated that she was the chief architect of the war in Libya. Clinton has to claim that the U.N.-authorized Libyan air campaign in 2011 was a model of successful foreign intervention, because Clinton was the one who urged Barack Obama, over the strong misgivings of others, to intervene in that civil war. She brought the Arabs on board. She articulated many of the administration's arguments.
Later, after the whole thing fell apart, she would falsely blame some obscure video for the whole thing.
Since then, Libya has fragmented into two rival factions, which have erased any pretense that democracy or freedom exists in the country. There are mass collective punishments as tens of thousands of political prisoners are thrown into camps. Violence is up. Proliferation of weapons has increased. Causalities have spiked since the war. Ansar al-Sharia, the group accused of murdering American diplomats, is more powerful now than it was before the U.S. got involved.
One estimate says that militias have grown from an estimated 40,000 fighters in 2011 to 160,000 today. This is now the place where Coptic Christians are marched out onto beaches and beheaded. The war has created a refugee crisis.
Now, Clinton isn't responsible for all the awful things people do, but she certainly is responsible for America's role in the whole mess. If voters are supposed to judge Clinton's asserted foreign policy expertise based on what she did while in power, they should take this into account: Clinton, according to her own admission, voted for one foreign policy disaster and instigated another one. Her fans might concede that Iraq was merely a vote of political expediency or perhaps one made on bad information (a stretch), but there is no such comfort with Libya. Clinton can't blame this one on George W. Bush.
Republicans were generally quiet about the Obama administration's unauthorized war in Libya—even though it circumvented congressional authority—because intervention generally matches their own foreign policy objectives. Americans didn't die, at least at the beginning, so it was forgotten. But if John McCain, who supported the Libyan intervention, would have been in charge, we would never have heard the end of it.
Instead, people would be asking: Please explain how the Libya intervention was a success? And should Ambassador Christopher Stevens have been in Benghazi at all?
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