Hillary Clinton campaigned on it, but Barack Obama called it the “worst mistake” of his presidency.
In 2011, as civil war raged in Libya and the forces of strongman dictator Muammar Gaddafi threatened to slaughter thousands of civilians, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-President Barack Obama forged an international coalition that used airstrikes to crush Gaddafi’s offensive. As a direct result, Gaddafi was defeated, deposed and killed.
Clinton in particular was even boastful about the outcome.
Clinton and Obama heralded the regime change as a new beginning for Libya, but within a few months, four Americans were dead after an anti-Gaddafi militia attacked a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi. Since then, Libya has been plunged into instability. ISIS gained a significant foothold, prompting the U.S. to launch more strikes in the country. In May, the BBC reported that Libya had “two rival parliaments and three governments,” all of them controlled by armed militias, of which there may be up to 1,700.
Earlier this month, CNN provided perhaps the most disturbing report of all: Sub-Saharan migrants attempting to make their way through Libya to Europe or elsewhere are instead being abducted by smugglers and auctioned off in open-air slave markets.
A USA Today op-ed by Glenn Harlan Reynolds, published Monday and entitled “Africans are being sold at Libyan slave markets. Thanks Hillary Clinton,” connects this foreign policy debacle with other Obama administration missteps in Syria and Yemen. The piece also suggests that the U.S. intervention in Libya is currently hamstringing our attempts to negotiate with North Korea.
In a 2003 deal with the Bush administration, Gaddafi agreed to give up his weapons of mass destruction in return for being allowed to remain in power. Today, a major reason Kim Jong-un is so aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons is because he believes that without them, his regime cannot survive, regardless of what promises the international community might make. By intervening in Libya, Obama and Clinton proved him right.
When Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama gave the order to launch airstrikes against the Libyan military, he had a legitimate humanitarian crisis to justify his decision. A massacre of civilians seemed imminent. Even five years later, although he admitted that the worst mistake of his presidency was “failing to plan for the day after” in Libya, he stood by his decision to intervene.
While Obama’s motives might have been noble, his actions were reckless. Gaddafi may have been a repressive dictator and no friend of the United States, but Libya after Gaddafi is a lawless wasteland where government is a sham, power comes from the barrel of a gun, and, as we now are learning, human beings are openly bought and sold.
“Black Africans are being sold in open-air slave markets, and it’s Hillary Clinton’s fault,” Reynolds wrote in his op-ed. “But you won’t hear much about that from the news media or the foreign-policy pundits … “
In February 2016, the New York Times reported how Secretary of State Clinton had been one of the strongest voices within the Obama administration for an intervention in Libya, whereas the president was more hesitant.
“Her conviction would be critical in persuading Mr. Obama to join allies in bombing Colonel Qaddafi’s forces,” reported the Times. “In fact, Mr. Obama’s defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, would later say that in a ’51-49′ decision, it was Mrs. Clinton’s support that put the ambivalent president over the line.” The Times continued, “The consequences would be more far-reaching than anyone imagined, leaving Libya a failed state and a terrorist haven … “
That “failed state” is now a harbor for modern day slavery. Again, Hillary Clinton defended the 2011 Libyan intervention throughout the 2016 presidential election.
This should be a lesson for all future U.S. foreign policymakers: If you have no desire to clean up the mess you make, no confidence in your ability to clean it up and no idea how large the mess will become, it’s best not to make that mess in the first place.