Libya

If We Go Back to Libya, Where's It Going To Lead?

Obama looking to double down on past mistakes.

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His worst mistake in office was "failing to plan for the day after" in Libya, President Obama said during an interview in April. The real error, as recent history has amply demonstrated, was deciding to intervene in the first place, and less than a month later, Obama is preparing to double down on that reckless intervention.

U.S. forces have secretly operated in Libya for months, seeking to push back against ISIS expansion made possible by the power vacuum our toppling of former dictator Moammar Qaddafi produced. Now, the Pentagon has openly established two small bases in the North African country. It's a tiny presence so far, but it lays the groundwork for round two of Obama's signature foreign policy failure.

Of course, the problem here is much bigger than Obama himself. To be sure, he and his fellow architect of intervention, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, deserve plenty of blame for repeating in Libya exactly the sort of unnecessary and apparently long-term intervention they condemn their White House predecessors for launching in Iraq.

But considered more broadly, the Libyan invasion is thoroughly typical of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, which countenances no caution or restraint. At every glimmer of opportunity for military action—no matter how long the commitment, how enormous the price tag, or how extraneous the cause to American national interests—Washington leaps.

This imprudence was the subject of a recent hearing with James Baker at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Baker, who served as secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush posited a theory of "selective engagement," a realist approach of recognizing that the United States neither can nor should attempt to apply a military solution to every problem on the planet.

"Look at each one of these discrete foreign policy problems through the prism of our national interest and our principles and values," he said in a conversation with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), "and say to yourself, 'Ok, if we take this action, where's it gonna lead?'"

And that is precisely what wasn't asked in advance of the multitude of entanglements in which America finds herself today. Thanks to this lack of foresight, we are spending trillions to deploy U.S. troops to at least half a dozen countries (Libya included) with no exit strategy in sight. These wars are an expense our grandchildren will still be paying; of dubious connection to our national interest; and compromising of American values.

As Paul argued, they are also unwinnable given our government's ill-considered expectations. Washington thinks it can "just blow up Qaddafi and out of that Thomas Jefferson will get elected," he said. This is a "naïve notion," Paul added, and "it needs to go back to—not that 'we need to be better prepared'—but that maybe, sometimes, with 'selective engagement,' this is a time that we shouldn't select to militarily engage."

With renewed intervention in Libya on the horizon, this is a lesson our government needs to learn in record time. "The president has now admitted that it was a mistake to topple Gaddafi in Libya, but he sort of says, 'Well, it wasn't a silly mistake to do it; it was just a mistake not to be prepared to create a country out of nothing and put, I guess, massive amounts of resources to create a nation in Libya,'" Paul said. "So I think there are a couple possibilities: One is maybe you shouldn't do it to begin with. And the other is we have massive resources and we create nations."

After 15 years of failed nation-building Iraq and five years of chaos in Libya, with trillions down the drain, it is obvious that the second possibility is not on the table outside of Washington's fantasy world of endless money, insta-democracy, and, I presume, rainbows and unicorns.

That leaves just the first choice: That maybe we shouldn't to this to begin with—or, at this stage, that maybe we should stop trying to do it in the face of overwhelming evidence it can't be successfully done.

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  1. But I thought Obama was playing 4 dimensional chess. The rest of us just aren’t smart enough to see it.

  2. But I thought Obama was playing 4 dimensional chess. The rest of us just aren’t smart enough to see it.

  3. Well, I bet in the name of empowering democracy, we help a strongman take control of the country to get the salafi threat under control and hundreds of thousands will die and billiions spent to basically put a new Qaddifi back in power.

    1. Yeah, but this time it’ll be our dictator. /sarc

      1. Safe to say it is going to be someone’s because they sure aren’t ready for anything else…

  4. On Libya – it was pretty clear to anyone not basing military decisions on politics that any strategy not involving boots on the ground would fail. And no one wanted to put boots on the ground for any kinetic military actions. Even if we did, it wouldn’t change anything. It’s funny how the Dems opposed Iraq, but didn’t learn anything from it besides let’s not commit ground troops. Let’s just destabilize countries on the cheap.

    Fast forward to this election. Hillary’s philosophy is literally always go with intervention. Don’t pass up the opportunity. If the choice is do nothing or do something, she is always going to pick doing something. Not because she knows dick about foreign policy or military operations, or plans to listen to the people who do, but because it makes her look tough politically and offset her alleged vagina.

    1. The world will be a better place if women run things.
      /progderp

    2. “because it makes her look tough politically and offset her alleged vagina”

      I actually don’t think that is the case. She is just really so corrupt. Their is also an interested party in intervention, Saudis, French (in Libya case), arms dealers. She will just be bought every time and go for the intervention.

    3. I don’t think she does this to look tough to make up for being a female. She is really just so corrupt. there is always an interested party in intervention. Saudis and French in Libya case, arms dealers. etc.. she is just so corrupt she will just always be bought off and advocate for the intervention.

      She also a sociopath.

      1. I swear to god I thought it ate my first comment.. da fuck

        1. You must click “submit” and have faith.

          1. Much like pulling the lever for Trump.

            1. Or bombing a third-world country.

              1. It’s just some brown people.

                /Jay Carney

        2. Noobs. You have to hit refresh a few times to see your comment now. It’s there.

        3. It’s been doing that to me all morning too. I click submit and then have to refresh the page a couple of times, wait 10 minutes, or whatever before it shows up. I don’t know if reason is moderating the comments and not telling us or if their web developers are just that incompetent. Probably the latter. There’s a reason I never contribute to their year end beg-a-thons.

          1. Maybe they could spring for a better comment system with the help of your gift. Just sayin’.

            1. Please no. The comment system here may be flawed, but I’ve seen much, much worse. At least this doesn’t rely on 50 different third party scripts to function.

              Maybe it would be possible to make a better comment system, but I have serious doubts that any new comment system would actually be better.

      2. Pssh, who isn’t a sociopath these days?

        1. Oh, I know this one!

          Hitler!

    4. because it makes her look tough politically and offset her alleged vagina.

      Don’t overlook that intervention creates scads of opportunities for crony corruption.

  5. These wars are an expense our grandchildren will still be paying; of dubious connection to our national interest; and compromising of American values.

    Putting some bullshit you don’t need on a credit card sounds like a perfect distillation of American values.

    1. Because AMUF that’s why

  6. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
    /management cliche

    1. The reason it’s a clich? . . .

      1. Those management cliches had a lot of truth. Quality processes do make quality product. Set your team up for success. If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean!

        I suspect everyone hates them because they’re a nugget of Truth wrapped in neurotic chirpiness and thrown at your face like a brick.

        1. Sure they do. Basic truths tarted up in consultant-speak or wrapped in a book by some former CEO.
          That’s why Obama’s excuse of “hey, I didn’t have a plan” is so pathetic.

        2. so its hating the messager to try and excuse not heeding the message?

  7. This only confirms a point I’ve made before. The political class in the U.S. has gotten so hyper-interventionist that even Cold Warriors and geo-political realists are now on the same side as the hard-line anti-interventionists.

    At this point, I have to ask, do they have any answers other than “let’s blow something up”?

  8. I miss the glory days when war for conquest or to defend against conquest.

    Now, it’s all about cleaning out the old inventory so the feds can order new stock from the military-industrial complex.

    1. Once those F-35s finally show up, the suicide bombers in Damascus won’t know what hit ’em.

      1. My guess would be faulty F35s falling out of the sky.

      2. It sounds like the F-35 will be used to kamikaze suicide bombers in Damascus.

      3. More like those F-35s will fall apart before they can even get to Syria.

        1. That’s why we need to pipeline full

  9. Is Congress ever going to enforce the war powers act? No one authorized these bases.

  10. So Obama’s only regret with Libya is that right now it isn’t where Iraq was ten years ago. Someone remind me what Iraq was like in 2006….

  11. Maybe if we send some more guys and bomb the hell out of ISIS they’ll give up.

    1. Would you like to be the next Secretary of Defense or Chairman of the Joint Chiefs?

  12. If We Go Back to Libya, Where’s It Going To Lead?

    To a complete shitshow. Not only that, but Obama will leave a nice fat turd on the rug – a fresh new foreign intervention – for the next president to have to clean up. What an asshole.

    1. “To a complete shitshow.”

      Cynical, my ass. You just make sure you get yourself on the right end of the gravy train the American taxpayers are so generously laying down.

  13. “His worst mistake in office was “failing to plan for the day after” in Libya, President Obama said during an interview in April.”

    Well it’s not like this issue ever came up in the middle east before.

    1. Or that the essence of leadership is planning.

    2. Your recent actions, I have observed them and understand their deeper meaning.

  14. maybe we should stop trying to do it in the face of overwhelming evidence it can’t be successfully done.

    I appreciate the general thrust of this piece, but i think its possible to be more articulate about foreign policy ideas without resorting to meaningless generalizations about “It”…. whatever “It” is.

    I also think very little James Baker said was really digested here. He’s cited as asking the right questions, but what the author latches onto as an answer is something specifically identified by Baker as a false-choice.

    e.g

    Former Secretary of State James Baker recommended an approach to U.S. foreign policy that would preserve America’s role as the “world’s preeminent leader for the foreseeable future” while rejecting the notion of a “choice between sending in the 101st Airborne or doing nothing”.

    “Using ‘selective engagement’ as a blueprint, we can a) identify America’s vital interests in the world and then 2) advance them using all of the tools available to our foreign policy–including our many strategic alliances, our economic clout, our diplomatic assets and, as our last resort, our military,” said Baker/strong

    I think the value Baker adds is to point out that “we never did #1” in Libya. And that #2 – we jump to using military assets because we’re deluded into believing we can “have little wars” that don’t fester interminably into bigger ones.

  15. This is why we need Hillary. Only she can get it right.

    1. “We’re gonna lock and load!”

  16. If We Go Back to Libya, Where’s It Going To Lead?

    Somewhere very very retarded.

  17. Worth a read = what seems to be the largest corruption scandal in US Military History

    I first heard about it in 2013 when the “Fat Leonard” got nabbed. But he’s been singing and apparently there are as many as 30 admirals facing jail time now.

    1. Paywalled.

      1. “Right-click, open in private window.”

        1. neet trick, I think.

    2. The damage to the Navy could match the toll from the Tailhook scandal of the early 1990s, when 14 admirals were reprimanded or forced to resign over an epic outbreak of sexual assault at a naval aviators’ convention.

      Interesting. This is the first I’ve heard of this, but yet all I hear on NPR is how rapey the pentagon is. Oh, and Venezuelas problems are low oil prices.

      1. some context however, makes it a bit “less shocking” =

        the rapacious corruption of dockside naval-resupply contractors goes back 100s of years.

        The british royal navy had terms for them… which slip my mind at the moment. But its always been the same = they crown paid 10X the actual cost of the goods so that both officers and contractors could live the high-life whenever they reached port. The sums were extraordinary even in the 1700s – and there were numerous instances where people were convicted and hanged for “errors in the books”. Pursers were considered almost like “internal affairs” agents, trying to ensure that the wholesale robbery was kept at some reasonable level.

        Anyway, the story is notable mostly for the net of high-level officers that seem to be implicated. But the context is entirely unsurprising.

    3. Fuck, my former CO might be implicated…… I’m stunned.

        1. That he didn’t cut you in on the action.

          1. like earned.

  18. “it is obvious that the second possibility is not on the table”

    It’s not obvious to the hundreds of millions of Americans who are so generously willing to have their grandkids pay tomorrow for today’s military adventures.

    1. So you think there are no less than 200 million adults with children who support passing on a crippling war debt to them?

      1. Judging by their voting behaviour, yes.

      2. Judging by their voting behaviour, yes.

        1. How many people are in the electorate and what proportion of them voted in the pro-war plebiscite you’re referring to?

          1. “How many people are in the electorate…”

            You’re not thinking this through. One doesn’t have to be ‘in the electorate’ to have voted for any of America’s war-mongering presidents. I reckon that most of those who voted for Roosevelt, for example, are dead now, and not in the electorate at all. Doesn’t keep their grandkids from having to pay their bills, though.

            1. Don’t move the goal posts.

              It’s not obvious to the hundreds of millions of Americans who are so generously willing to have their grandkids pay tomorrow for today’s military adventures.

              Present tense used. Contemporary adventures referred to.

              1. I not sure what the problem is. You don’t seem to understand that you are paying for wars embarked upon at some time in the past, or that future Americans will be paying for wars started today. I tried to say much the same thing in my original post which I thought you seemed to have grasped. Now you’re reduced to spouting sporting metaphors.

                1. You don’t seem to understand that you are paying for wars embarked upon at some time in the past, or that future Americans will be paying for wars started today.

                  You inferred quite a lot. If you were talking about hundreds of millions of dead voters then by all means indicate that with grammar and syntax.

                  If you’re claiming that hundreds of millions of currently living voters are in agreement about contemporary wars, which is in effect what you claimed, then defend the position or just concede that you misspoke.

                  1. Most of the voters of the present and the past have voted for politicians that promise wars today, taxes tomorrow. If you think these voters number closer to 100 million than 200 million, then I’ll agree with you if only in the interest of keeping a devoted reader happy. Or if you like I’d be willing to amend what I wrote earlier with a change of tense. “Who have been” seems to do the trick, showing that this enthusiastic approval of war now, pay later is an ongoing matter starting at some time in the past. Now if you’ve found any spelling errors you feel need pointing out, now’s a great time to do so.

  19. Why would we go back to Libya? I thought it was “Smart Power Done Right”?

    Seriously Trump, you want to win – juxtapose that quote with images of the current dumpster fire over there, then juxtapose the coffins with American flags against “what difference…” in your commercials this fall. Game set match.

    1. Yeah, except he would probably advocate doing more.

  20. “and say to yourself, ‘Ok, if we take this action, where’s it gonna lead?'”

    And that is precisely what wasn’t asked in advance of the multitude of entanglements in which America finds herself today.

    It is hard to believe that it truly wasn’t asked. It is such an utterly obvious question, it would take a deliberate effort of will not to ask it, or think about it.

    That’s why I think the public story that these were “humanitarian interventions” was bogus from day one. (OK, that wasn’t the only stated reason in every case, but it was in Libya, and is in Syria.) The truth is, the State Department, NATO, and everyone else involved in the decision-making process had to know from the start that their actions would worsen, not improve, the situation of the average Libyan or Syrian, and they simply didn’t care. They can’t admit that, but it is obvious. They’d have to be total incompetents not to have known that from the start, and they aren’t, no matter what critics may claim.

    1. “and everyone else involved in the decision-making process had to know from the start that their actions would worsen”

      I agree with what you’re saying here, but I have to stress that over the long term the US will prevail over any challenger, given the differential in strength. A long war of attrition is to be desired. Wasn’t 150 years the figure tossed out by McCain? (Granted, this kind of assumes the Russians hadn’t gone into Syria. This has completely discombobulated policy makers.)

      Look at the Red Tide that swept South America some while back. Given enough time it will recede entirely and the US will be there to pick up the pieces. All without firing a shot or releasing a drone. Our betters know that they aren’t obliged to blunder into unnecessary military adventures.

      1. Wars of attrition are unsustainable. World War 1 is an example of what happens to governments during the social pressure war of attrition exert. In our case it will be financial pressure that forces change as opposed to starvation and mass deaths.

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  23. Everyone knows Libya is Bush’s fault and the current administration is using smart power to fix it.

    ‘Cause noble peace prize and stuff.

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