Hillary Clinton

Clinton on Libya: 'Too Soon to Tell'; Everyone Else: 'This Was a Disaster'

The former secretary of state does not learn from her mistakes, even when she admits them.


House Select Committee on Benghazi

The two-part New York Times examination of Hillary Clinton's role in the disastrous U.S. intervention against Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi includes a revealing sidebar featuring various people's opinions about what went wrong. A few of my favorites:

Michael T. Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency: "This was a disaster. This was not a failure. It was a disaster.… We made it worse. All I know is that in Libya we took a guy out—again not a great guybut a guy who maintained stability in a bad neighborhood."

Philip H. Gordon, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs under Clinton: "I'm not among the people who thinks there was a magical way we could have done this right. The 'failure-to-follow-up' critique in particular drives me crazy because it implies that if we'd only paid attention, et cetera, everything would be O.K.…We gave the Libyans a chance. It turned out that they weren't up to it—or maybe we weren't up to it. Maybe it was just too hard."

David H. Petraeus, retired general and former CIA director: "It's pretty easy in hindsight. In the wake of Qaddafi's fall, we weren't quick enough to get in there and try to do something and actually have a meaningful contribution that could help secure and stabilize the situation.…It's very hard to say whether additional assets in a comprehensive manner would have been enough. But what we did was certainly not enough."

Derek Chollet, former State Department, National Security Council and Defense Department official: "When I looked at Libya, I thought, all right, we've got a small population, six million people, we have tremendous energy resources that had been underdeveloped, we had the international community that is extraordinarily unified and invested in Libya's success. I mean, this is the opposite of Iraq in every way. So by God, if we can't succeed here, it should really make one think about embarking on these kind of efforts."

It really should, shouldn't it? This experience should give pause even to the most enthusiastic interventionist, imparting a lesson about the limits of American power and the impossibility of doing just one thing in a world full of complexity and unintended consequences. Yet Clinton seems unfazed by the hideous results of her signature achievement as secretary of state. Here is what she told the Council on Foreign Relations last November:

And with the developments in Libya, for example, the Libyan people have voted twice in free and fair elections for the kind of leadership they want. They have not been able to figure out how to prevent the disruptions that they are confronted with because of internal divides and because of some of the external pressures that are coming from terrorist groups and others. So I think it's too soon to tell. And I think it's something that we have to be, you know, looking at very closely.

Recall that it took Clinton more than a decade after the invasion of Iraq to publicly admit voting for that war was a mistake, for many of the same reasons that choosing sides in Libya's civil war was a mistake. So maybe she will have a similar epiphany about Libya sometime around 2022. By that point she could be halfway through her second term as president—plenty of time for more disastrous decisions, presumably starting with Syria. But the timing of her second thoughts about Libya won't really matter, because she is clearly a person who does not learn from her mistakes, even when she acknowledges them.

NEXT: Brickbat: The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

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  1. Iraq is a mess,Afghanistan ,mess,Libya,mess..And let’s not for get Syria. You’d think Hillary and the rest of the war mongers would see that doing the same thing over and over is insane. That.of course would mean admitting their mistakes and that’s not going to happen.

  2. Look at how long it took her to realize her stance on gay marriage was no longer the prevailing opinion and she needed to change her tune. Maybe she lives in such a bubble of yes men that it takes her years to even get the news that her truths are no longer what everybody else thinks is the truth.

    1. What point does this difference make?

      1. What difference does this point make?

  3. She makes up for her jaw-dropping incompetence with her brazen and breathtaking corruption. I don’t know about y’all, but I am ready for Hillary.

    1. What difference at this point does it make?

    2. So,you want a reason to drink more?

      1. If I drink any more I will be pickled for all eternity. I am gonna have to lay off that shit for a while…bad timing huh?

        1. You chose,poorly.

    3. “I don’t know about y’all, but I am ready for Hillary.”

      Wood chipper warmed up?

      1. That kind of comment can get a a visit from the S[ecret]S[ervice] you know…I have heard from reliable sources that they troll this site.

  4. BTW, speaking of truth, I saw where Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, Mr. No Immigration Ever- (just do a Reason search for “Jeff Sessions”), endorsed Trump – big surprise. But I saw an analysis that suggested that’s what this election is all about. The GOP establishment wants open borders and the GOP rank-and-file don’t and all it took was Donald Trump being anti-immigration to seize control of the GOP and wipe out the GOP establishment. So congratulations, Reason, apparently you’re now the open-borders GOP establishment responsible for President Trump.

  5. Your looking at this wrong, since the policy of the Clinton, Bush, Obama, and future Clinton administration has been and will continue to be to cause chaos, over thrown governments, give openings for terrorists and create massive waves of immigrants to invade the west then it was all a great success.

    They have to break a few eggs to create their new globalist world but since they live behind walls and guards they don’t care

  6. Bombing Libya was the stupidest foreign policy idea since at least LBJ. There was absolutely no threat, benefit, or interest in getting involved.

    Our stupid asshole European “allies” decided it was a good idea to get rid of Qaddafi but were too weak to make it happen. So, rather than have a teachable moment on military readiness, Obama and Hillary decided to jump in and prove that they have no need to spend on their own defense. The British literally towed their last aircraft carrier past Libya on the way to Turkey to be scrapped – while American carriers were running missions against Libya.

    Libya along with the Ukraine were the only 2 nations to voluntarily surrender their WMD weapons and programs – we betrayed both of them.

    We intentionally toppled a strong-man in a Muslim nation with no obvious successor or organization to take his place – and thought it would work out well?

    1. “There was absolutely no threat, benefit, or interest in getting involved.”

      Smart power at its best.

      Really, every time I hear top Democrats open their mouths I hear the dumbest shit imaginable. It really is just the clucking of morons. They make the stupid party look like geniuses and yet their base cheers and claps like trained seals. They have to be trained seals. There is no other explanation. They hear their party leaders make sounds and they cheer without any comprehension of that is being said.

      Obama circa 2008: “Under my plan energy prices would necessarily skyrocket”

      What does this mean? The majority of the cost of everything you buy – clothing, food, everything made of metal, medicine, absolutely everything you need to live – is the cost of the energy it took to create and deliver that thing to the consumer. Skyrocketing energy prices means skyrocketing cost of living and a resulting drop in quality of life.

      What the guy said can accurately be summarized as “America, I am going to fuck you to death”. His base cheered and voted him into office.

      It is just stunning.

    2. Apparently you, unlike most politicians, are capable of extrapolating past experience to possible future outcomes.

    3. “Libya along with the Ukraine were the only 2 nations to voluntarily surrender their WMD weapons and programs – we betrayed both of them.”

      It’s even worse than that: we toppled a former terrorism sponsor, one who had paid restitution for Pan Am 103. One who said he would play ball because he didn’t want to end up like Saddam.

      So if you’re another tin pot dictator, what does dumping your nuclear program and renouncing terrorism get you?

      Dead at the hands of America.

  7. If Hillary isn’t the Platonic Ideal of “the banality of evil”, I don’t know what is.

    1. That is pretty damned accurate.

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  9. David H. Petraeus, retired general and former CIA director: “But what we did was certainly not enough.”

    Everything you did was too much.

    (a good epitaph for almost any government official, by the way)

  10. We really need to stop the White Witch from being elevated to POTUS; I’ve even grown used to the idea of Trump being a better [ok, somewhat less evil, not much of a bar] choice.

  11. People I know have nearly zero knowledge or interest in Libya’s recent events.

    1. You’ve hit the problem on the head. I work in an office full of educated people and I’d be surprised if one of the 40 other than my selves could converse intelligently about Col Q’s removal, much less what’s happened since. They’re apathetic and will believe what they’re told.

  12. Stop trying to fix nations that have a tribal culture. They don’t work as a nation except under a authoritarian government.

    1. I expect calls for non-intervention on a libertarian website; I don’t expect “Liberty? Overrated.” on a libertarian website.

  13. “Too soon to tell”. Isn’t that what Ho Chi Minh (apocryphally) said when asked his opinion about the French Revolution?

    1. Wait, that was probably Mao. Too lazy to look it up.

      1. Zhou En-Lai.

  14. There are no mistakes when there are no consequences for your decisions.

  15. If you’re going to compile a list of lessons from Iraq, near the top of the list has to be “when you topple a Mideast strongman, a bunch of Islamic crazies start fucking shit up, and it will take thousands of gallons of American blood to re-stabilize the country.”

    So of course Obama and Hillary, having witnessed all this, decided to topple another Mideast strongman.

    What the fuck did they expect would happen next?

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