“Let me fight the two wars already on my plate”
That is how Defense Secretary Robert Gates responded to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the spring of 2011 when the United States along with France was leading a multi-national coalition to remove Muammar Gaddafi from power in Libya. Gates recalled this moment in his interview with CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday. Despite Gates qualms, the United States went ahead and intervened in Libya.
Gaddafi was last a problem for the west when he sponsored terrorists that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland in 1988 and helped to arm the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. In fact, from the early 2000’s onward he was a force for stability in North Africa, bottling up islamic radicals within his borders. Gaddafi was far from a good guy, but like with Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad, the world with them as rouge actors was safer than the world without them or in Assad’s case dramatically weakened.
Republican Neoconservatives egged on Clinton and President Obama to “not lead from behind” and they took the bait. The United States engaged in a military operation that helped rebels topple and assassinate Gaddafi. This military operation which some of us believed was ill-conceived at the time was tacitly supported by Congressional Republicans who failed to enforce the War Powers Act when the military intervention initiated by the Executive Branch without any congressional approval dragged on beyond 60 days.
The military operation was “successful” much like the Iraq War was. Libya quickly became a failed state, a haven for terrorists, including those who attacked the US Consulate in Benghazi. Yes the Republicans have overplayed the Benghazi scandal, but some Democrats blaise attitude toward the preventable deaths of four Americans including our Ambassador Christopher Stevens, quite frankly from my perspective is sickening.
Now Libya is becoming a sanctuary for ISIS fighters fleeing the military intervention in Syria. A safe haven for terrorists is not what President Obama and Secretary Clinton planned on Libya becoming. But given how Iraq and later Afghanistan devolved into failed states with large amounts of territory controlled by terrorists how could Secretary Clinton have logically thought Libya would be different? It’s illogical to think this, unless you a Democratic political hack who feels that when Republicans make fatal mistakes that weaken this country it’s somehow different than when Democrats make the same errors especially with hindsight of what the Bush Administration did.
Libya could and should be an issue in the 2016 election.