In an earlier thread, responding to me calling US policy in Libya under Obama and Clinton disastrous, Crissa wrote:
What ‘disastrous’ Libya policies? Honestly, are we counting as a disaster that thousands of people weren’t murdered by an army?
There’s no evidence – other than the propaganda of anti-Qaddafi rebels – that the Qaddafi regime was about to murder thousands of people, and plenty of reason to believe that it wouldn’t have happened (the evidence from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty indicates that in 2011 Quaddafi was relatively restrained and avoided targeting civilians) so the benefit you’re claiming didn’t actually exist; no civilian massacre was about to occur.
That their civil war was over relatively quickly, and it’s just down to trying to disarmed the rebels and get everyone under one government – which woud’ve been the same problem no matter what the US did?
“Relatively quickly”? The war probably would have ended much sooner without the NATO intervention, with a tenth as many deaths.
The biggest misconception about NATO’s intervention is that it saved lives and benefited Libya and its neighbors. In reality, when NATO intervened in mid-March 2011, Qaddafi already had regained control of most of Libya, while the rebels were retreating rapidly toward Egypt. Thus, the conflict was about to end, barely six weeks after it started, at a toll of about 1,000 dead, including soldiers, rebels, and civilians caught in the crossfire. By intervening, NATO enabled the rebels to resume their attack, which prolonged the war for another seven months and caused at least 7,000 more deaths.
A more recent article by the same author in Foreign Affairs updates the figures:
All told, the intervention extended Libya’s civil war from less than six weeks to more than eight months….
Before NATO’s intervention, Libya’s civil war was on the verge of ending, at the cost of barely 1,000 lives. Since then, however, Libya has suffered at least 10,000 additional deaths from conflict. In other words, NATO’s intervention appears to have increased the violent death toll more than tenfold.
How many additional deaths have to occur before Democrats admit the intervention was a disaster?
We shouldn’t intervene in other nations’ affairs militarily – either not at all, or not unless there’s a truly crucial situation and it’s within our ability to make an immediate and positive difference at a reasonable cost. This was not the case in Libya, and the result has been many more deaths, and making the US (and, really, almost everyone) less secure by empowering and arming terrorists, and destabilizing the region (not just Libya but also Mali). Not to mention the ten thousand of Qaddafi’s anti-aircraft missiles that still haven’t been recovered, and the loss of an ally against al Qaeda.
Plus, we shot the credibility of our anti-nuclear program. Qaddafi gave up his nukes, after long negotiations, and less than a decade later he was subject to a NATO regime change campaign and then tortured and shot. I doubt the lesson was
not lost on other nations.
Finally, Qaddafi was in poor health, and his son and successor – while not a saint – was a voice for more reasonable policies in Libya.
So, yes, it’s fair to call Obama’s Libya policy “disastrous.” Libya is a textbook example of a case in which intervention caused far more death and damage than non-intervention would have.
It is also yet another example of a Presidential administration being duplicitous about their justifications for the war (does anyone buy that regime change was not a goal from the start?), and of Congress’ rights under the War Powers Resolution being ignored. Insofar as it’s reasonable to assume that Clinton will be at least as (or more) hawkish than Obama, both of these suggest that Clinton will not only pursue bad policies, but will do so without being honest with the public or deferring to Congress’ legal role in choosing when the US goes to war.
Crissa says that Clinton has learned and grown and become less hawkish. I see no evidence of this. It’s notable that the major mistake of Iraq – the idea that we could just change over a regime without an enormous amount of chaos, death and destabilization as a result – is exactly the mistake Clinton (and Obama) made in Libya. So what justifies a claim that Clinton has changed?
If past patterns prevail, then just as Clinton supported the Iraq disaster during Bush and was significantly responsible for the Libya disaster during Obama, there’s every chance of a large-scale foreign policy disaster during a Hillary Clinton administration. The US will intervene somewhere it shouldn’t, vastly underestimating our ability to control the outcome once we create a regime change or regional shake-up, and as a result thousands of people will die and the US’s international security will be made worse.
And Democrats won’t criticize it, because it happened when the President is a Democrat. And the Democrats, not receiving any pushback from their base, will continue supporting terrible policies. And future Democratic candidates will not have any incentive to be better on these issues.
And despite it all, I will vote for Clinton (or, I suppose, Sanders, but that seems unlikely) in the 2016 election, because whoever wins the Republicans primary will be even worse.
- Hillary Clinton Should Take Blame for Disastrous Libyan Intervention | New Republic
- Obama’s Libya Debacle
- Hugh Roberts · Who said Gaddafi had to go? · London Review of Books 17 November 2011
- A Model Humanitarian Intervention? Reassessing NATO’s Libya Campaign – Harvard – Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
- Don’t let Hillary Clinton escape the blame for Libya’s anarchy – Michael Brendan Dougherty