Sunday, June 9, 2013

Why is Libya Considered a Win in Obama-Land?

Paul Pillar's take on the elevations of Susan Rice and Samantha Power (inside whose head James Mann tries to crawl in this WaPo piece) raises a point that has dropped off Americans' collective radar: Why have we chalked up the Libya intervention as a win?

The notion that this intervention [which both Rice and Power supported] was wise appears to rest on the idea that the target was a dictator nobody particularly liked and that in the civil war that was then ongoing people were getting hurt, as is always the case in civil wars. The notion also rested on the myth, unsupported by evidence to this day, that Qadhafi was planning some sort of genocidal bloodbath in eastern Libya and that failure to intervene would mean Rwanda all over again. The dictator was swept aside with U.S. and Western help, at minimal material cost to the United States, and so the episode gets casually put in the win column.

The actual balance sheet on Libya is far more extensive than that. The disliked dictator had already, through an enforceable agreement with the United States and Britain, given up his unconventional weapons programs and gotten out of international terrorism. He was still a quixotically inconvenient and sometimes disagreeable cuss, but he was not a threat. What we have had since he was ousted is extremist-infested disorder in Libya that has given rise to a flow of arms to radicals in the Sahel and incidents like the fatal encounter at a U.S. compound in Benghazi. (If Rice were being nominated for a position requiring Senate confirmation, this is the aspect of the Benghazi incident she ought to be grilled about, not some manufactured silliness about talking points.) We also have sent a very unhelpful message to the likes of the Iranians and North Koreans and have perversely affected their motivations regarding the possibility of reaching their own agreements with the United States.


It is remarkable that the Libyan intervention is so often considered a success. Let us hope that in the future when lessons are drawn from this episode—by either advocates or opponents of some future intervention—they will be drawn carefully, rather than in the simplistic manner that seems to have become respectable even among presidential appointees.

Pillar's take on the silliness of the (mostly GOP) hazing of Rice, Hillary Clinton, etc., in the wake of the Benghazi "scandal" is spot-on, and dovetails well with this Daily Beast report about how the GOP's stance on modernity - and its unending, give-no-quarter hectoring of the Obama administration - are costing it its future with the young, educated College Republican types whose support it surely needs to keep.  When a new GOP governor of Mississippi blames working mothers for illiteracy, and a  GOP senator from  Georgia attributes the US military's rape problem to hormones, can you blame the CR's for seeing what supposedly is their party as the party of stupid?

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