Benghazi Just a Symptom; Interventionism Is the Disease

A bipartisan failure of judgment which shows all the signs of running on repeat.


The real story of the 800-page report that is the result of the Select Committee on Benghazi's months of investigation is not about what Hillary Clinton knew and when—though, to be sure, the inquiry presents criticisms worth serious consideration given their subject's perpetual touting of her foreign policy record.

Nor is the story found in the document's headlining revelations, like the fact that it was loyalists to the autocratic Qaddafi regime (yes, the very regime U.S. intervention aimed to overthrow) who were instrumental in saving American lives during 2012's embassy attack. Nor is it the disclosure that the CIA did not know about these pro-Qaddafi fighters until after their involvement, or that the intelligence agency copped to multiple other serious errors. Nor yet is it the report's allegation that forces within the Clinton State Department and the Obama administration more generally acted to impede transparency as the scandal around Benghazi grew.

No, the real story here is not specific to the Benghazi incident at all—or nearly so polarizing along partisan lines. It is rather found in the bigger picture of bipartisan military intervention, which in Libya produced yet another a reckless war of choice, a boondoggle which did nothing to protect U.S. interests, limit the spread of terrorism, or promote democracy (or even stability) in the greater Mideast.

We didn't need two years of investigation to figure out what President Obama himself has all but admitted: 2011's U.S.-led jaunt into Libya was a fool's errand.

And the Benghazi attack, for all its shock and tragedy, is but one detail in a panorama of misadventure, an in many ways unsurprising consequence of the hubris of liberal interventionism's false conviction that the American military can casually pop in and out of the whole world's problems without suffering cost or consequence.

Indeed, the "2012 attack that killed four Americans was a consequence of the disorder and violence the administration left in the wake of its drive-by war," as Tim Carney rightly argues at The Washington Examiner, and the "useful lesson from Benghazi isn't about a White House lying (shocking!), but about the inherent messiness of regime change and the impossibility of a quick, clean war."

Unfortunately, that is a lesson too few in Washington are willing to learn. Clinton herself maintains in the face of overwhelming evidence that her handiwork in Libya is an example of "smart power at its best"—a phrase whose blatant inaccuracy should haunt her for the rest of her political career. With arguments in favor of Libya, round two already swirling and Clinton's poll numbers holding strong, it is not difficult to imagine a Clinton White House dragging America back to fiddle with a country it was never particularly interested in fixing by this time next year.

And the foreign policy establishment on the other side of the aisle must not be left without its due share of blame should that possibility come to pass. Though Benghazi committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) was right to attempt to widen the report's focus past Clinton specifically, neoconservatives' all-too-convenient convenient attention to the errors of Benghazi make it all easy for them to gloss over the bigger issue at hand: that none of this would have happened had America stuck to a foreign policy of realism and restraint, minding our own business and defending our own interests instead of gallivanting off to play revolutionary in one more country with no vital connection to our own.

Benghazi is a symptom—a serious one, at that—but the disease is interventionism. That's the real story here, and it's a bipartisan failure of judgment which shows all the signs of running on repeat.

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  1. “like the fact that it was loyalists to the autocratic Qaddafi regime” I bet assad soldiers would probably do the same if they came across Americans…. I really don’t get why we keep this administration keeps throwing in with a bunch of salafi head choppers. Well besides Hillary getting 10’s of millions from the saudis

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  2. ” Clinton herself maintains in the face of overwhelming evidence that her handiwork in Libya is an example of “smart power at its best”?a phrase whose blatant inaccuracy should haunt her for the rest of her political career.”

    Yup, when she’s in the oval office she should be real spooked there.

  3. Preaching to choir a bit with this one, but still true.

  4. If you can’t intervene on the shores of Tripoli then just where can you intervene?

    1. The halls of Montezuma?

      1. That’s what caused his Revenge. OMG! Blowback!

        1. Isn’t that more of a bout of blowout?

          1. Not if you manage to keep your pants on.

    2. U.S. Borders.

      1. Oh wait…

    3. The rest of the Barbary Coast.

  5. We never learn.

    1. For that to happen, at some point we would have to admit imperfection.

      1. Yeah, and there is always the Military Industrial Complex as well.

  6. like the fact that it was loyalists to the autocratic Qaddafi regime (yes, the very regime U.S. intervention aimed to overthrow) who were instrumental in saving American lives during 2012’s embassy attack

    Qaddafi ditched his nuclear program after the invasion of Iraq and was actively engaged in fighting al-Qaeda’s attempts to gain a foothold in Libya. The administration decided he had to go anyway, because apparently those are not policies that ought to be encouraged in the Middle East.

  7. Our intervention in Libya is the perfect embodiment for this administration’s foreign policy, not well thought out, weak willed and incompetently executed.

    1. I think it perfectly embodies U.S. foreign policy far proceeding this administration.

      1. Not quite. At least Bush had some rhyme and reason with his godawful incredibly expensive interventions. It was bad reasoning but it wasn’t foreign policy by magic 8-ball which seems to be what’s going on now.

  8. Nobody has bothered to explain why the Ambassador to Libya was hanging out in Benghazi.

    What, was he just chilling, surrounded by CIA compounds? As one so often does.

    Or was was he selling Libyan arms to Syrian rebels.

    And then it turned out our local ‘freedom fighters’ aren’t exactly that fond of the U.S.

    1. This. I keep making this point to people who say non-scandal. It was an entirely illegal operation that the Obama administration gets a pass on because of the (D) next to their names and the Republicans are war hawks, anyway.

      These assholes were using the chaos of Libya, one failed intervention, to funnel guns to another intervention.

      1. A least Reagan got busted for Iran-Contra, everybody thought that was a huge deal. But Obama supplying arms to proto-ISIS, that’s a huge meh.

    2. Yes, he was attending a meeting earlier that day with his Turkish counterpart organizing the movement of weapons and fighters to Syria,. Although the media is carrying water and calls it a consulate now, it was a top secret location were they were funding, arming, and moving Jihadist. They were trying to cover up this fact. and the media is more than willing to help

      1. You mean Open Societies is more than willing to help.

  9. Interventionism


    1. The Meatists would be an excellent name for a band.

        1. MEAT


          1. Those are some impressive cod pieces.

  10. Ya know, it might help to point out that this intervention was illegal under the Constitution and was entirely the creation of the Executive Branch.

    The “intervention” was an act of war against the recognized government of Libya. Post-overthrow, there wasn’t a government there for us to deal with to get permission for any kind of US activity in-country. Everything about this was both illegal and 100% done by the Executive.

    Its almost like these kinds of shenanigans were foreseen by the Founders, who built in protections against them. Would Congress have voted to go to war with Libya? Who knows? If they had, would it have gone better? Again, who knows?

    What is perfectly clear is that this kind of overseas frolic by an unhinged executive turned out very badly. Not letting the executive go off on frolics like this might just prevent future clusterhumps like this.

    Just a thought.

    1. Your comment is just a symptom of anti-frolicism.

      1. I am frolicularly challenged, it is true.

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  12. “Benghazi is a symptom?a serious one, at that?but the disease is interventionism. That’s the real story here, and it’s a bipartisan failure of judgment which shows all the signs of running on repeat.”

    Maybe you could have provided some evidence for this supposed bipartisanship in Libya? I don’t recall any conservatives being in favor of what the administration did over there.

    Or is the IDEA of interventionism bipartisan, so anyone who can be labeled an interventionist is indirectly responsible for every bad thing that happens internationally.

    1. Please. Republicans could have cut off the purse for the Libyan adventure if they wanted to. Silence in our governmental system is equivalent to assent. Truth is, other than a few backbenchers, they made no actual attempt to stop Obama’s actions; complaining to reporters doesn’t count.

      Yes, any attempt to tie Obama’s hands in Libya, assuming it made it into a piece of legislation that ended on the President’s desk, would have likely been vetoed. So what? If Republicans were actually appalled at this “lawless” intervention, which they regularly claimed to be, they would have gone through with it. The fact that they didn’t actually try shows they either didn’t care or were privately in support of it but decided to make political hay out if it in the run-up to a presidential election.

  13. If interventionism is the disease, who is our Marion Cobretti? AKA the cure!

  14. Republicans were never going to seriously attack Hillary/Obama for being too interventionist. How could they, given that they’re all about war too?

  15. No, ‘interventionism’ is a strawman. Until Reason has something to say on foreign policy that is worth hearing, no one’s going to listen.

  16. Let’s face it folks, the US military never met a shooting war they didn’t like. Ever wonder why? The answer is the same as always. MONEY. More spending for the Pentagon. More for the army of Pentagon contractors and, as always, billions in illicit money for the politicians in Washington. This is the military industrial complex in action. Pres. Eisenhower warned us about it over 50 years ago and was he ever right. Every combat casualty going back to Vietnam has been for nothing more than to perpetuate the torrent of money that flows through the Defense Department. No American service people have died defending their country. That’s a cruel joke. Rather they have been sacrificed at the alter of greed and lust for power. Criminality is the rule in Washington. I urge everyone to do their patriotic duty this fall and simply refuse to support ANY incumbent. Write your Congressman and Senators and tell them to bring the troops home. If you really do support the troops those are critical things you can do for them. Frankly, “thank you for your service” just doesn’t get it.

    1. I agree the military like any bureaucratic entity is always seeking to sustain itself (and hence needs a mission and the money to support it), Vietnam and other police actions (sic) just like Libya are the result of incorrect world views and policies undertaken as a result of those flawed world views. The domino effect (arguably the justification for Vietnam) while it seemed apparent, didn’t occur due to the inherent faults in socialism and IMHO Libya was viewed by this administration as an easy win to both demonstrate they were serious about democratizing the middle east/north africa in support of the “Arab Spring”. Since Obama and his minions in the MSM were all over the middle east and Egypt asking if they were thankful to Obama for freeing them. Now they have swung the other way, just like Clinton after Somalia which had the unintended side effect of convincing Bin Laden that the US couldn’t handle casualties and therefore was a good target for the Base.

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  18. RE: Benghazi Just a Symptom; Interventionism Is the Disease
    A bipartisan failure of judgment which shows all the signs of running on repeat.

    Interventionism is the correct answer in all of our country’s foreign affair problems.
    Just look at the wonderful success Amerika has had when it joined the allies in WWI, Vietnam, Iraq, etc.
    The people in those countries remember our many contributions and love us to death.
    Plus, just look how little money was spent on these foreign incursions not to mention how small a human price that was paid and what it did for our country’s reputation among other nations.
    Amerikan foreign intervention in other countries affairs?
    Always a good idea.

  19. It really is “smart power at its best” – which as we should all know is a call for everything to go sideways immediately….

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