Hillary Clinton’s Not So Splendid Little War

In October of 2015, Atlantic Magazine published a description of Hillary Clinton by Conor Friedersdorf. He wrote: “Using contested intelligence, a powerful adviser urges a president to wage a war of choice against a dictator; makes a bellicose joke when he is killed; declares the operation a success; fails to plan for a power vacuum; and watches Islamists gain power. That describes Dick Cheney and the Iraq War—and Hillary Clinton and the war in Libya.”


(Please see the very short Video below of Clinton’s world class diplomatic skills.)

In 2016 the effects of Hillary Clinton’s bellicosity in Libya are still rippling through world politics. To see how, we need to go back to 2003.


In October of 2003, U.S. intelligence agencies raided a cargo ship bound for Libya carrying equipment used for making nuclear weapons. Many of the seized components were manufactured by a firm in Malaysia under the guidance of Dr. A.Q. Khan, a Pakistani nuclear scientist who was at the center of a vast black market in nuclear weapons technology. Having thus been exposed, and under intense pressure both from the U.S. invasion of Iraq and international sanctions, Libya made its peace with the West. In December of 2003, Muammar Gaddafi agreed to eliminate Libya’s weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons and a decades old nuclear weapons program.


Please note there is considerable disagreement over the extent to which it was the Iraq invasion, sanctions on Libya, either, or a combination of the two that persuaded Gaddafi to relent on his weapons programs. For this discussion, it doesn’t matter. But three things do matter: (1) that he gave them up, (2) the outcome, and (3) the message sent to similarly situated players. More about this later.


Now let’s fast forward to 2011 and the Arab Spring. What began as peaceful protest in late 2010 turned into full-scale revolt, eventually bringing about the collapse of the Tunisian Government on January 14, 2011. The Egyptian Government of Hosni Mubarak toppled about month later on February 11, 2011. Protests began in Libya on February 15, 2011, eventually leading to a civil war between armed opponents of Moammar Gaddafi’s regime and forces remaining loyal to him.


As the situation unfolded, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decided that it was time for the U.S. to intervene, but not because Libya posed a threat to the U.S. The rationale for the intervention was a recently developed doctrine known as “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P).


Wikipedia describes, the principle of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine as “… based on the underlying premise that sovereignty entails a responsibility to protect all populations from mass atrocity crimes and human rights violations. The principle is based on a respect for the norms and principles of international law, especially the underlying principles of law relating to sovereignty, peace and security, human rights, and armed conflict.”


In the event the U.N. Security Council, at the urging of the U.S., adopted a resolution in which the Council authorized member states to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians under threat of attack in Libya. The resolution, which passed in March of 2011, cited the “Responsibility to Protect”. Shortly thereafter U.S. led NATO forces began bombing forces loyal to Gaddafi.


Responsibility to Protect morphed rather quickly into a de facto policy of regime change. It didn’t take long for opposition forces to hunt down Gaddafi and then summarily execute him within hours of his capture. Judging by the video above, Hillary Clinton of Yale Law School thought this was just hilarious.


The Aftermath

It is important to put subsequent developments in the proper context. Moammar Gaddafi had already either turned over or destroyed his weapons of mass destruction consistent with the bargain he had negotiated with the U.S. At the time, diplomats suggested the Libyan situation as a model for turning authoritarian regimes with WMD ambitions into responsible players. But Hillary Clinton put an end to that. It was at her urging that the U.S. turned on Gaddafi and attacked forces loyal to him, thus sealing his fate.


In the immediate aftermath, Libya descended into chaos, during which time radical Islamists stepped into the power vacuum left by Gaddafi and seized a foothold in the country. By September 11, 2012 Islamic jihadist groups attacked the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, and deliberately killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and 3 other Americans. But it doesn’t stop there.


While Europe continues its struggles with migration from the Middle East, Libya has become the major migrant gateway to Europe from Africa. Hundreds of thousands have attempted to make the journey through the chaos of Libya into Europe to escape desperate poverty in Africa. And as the Guardian reports, “Islamic State is using Libya’s migrant flow as cover to bring in foreign recruits. Those volunteers blend with migrants going across the Sahara to Tripoli, then break off to head north-east to the Isis headquarters at Sirte, where the Pentagon says jihadi numbers have doubled to 6,000 in the past year.”


Meanwhile, North Korea was watching as these events unfolded. And what they saw was a dictator who gave up his weapons of mass destruction after negotiating a deal with the United States, only to have the U.S. turn on him, then attack forces loyal to him and effectively sign his death warrant.


It is one thing to attack a relatively powerless regime. It is quite another to attack one that has weapons of mass destruction. It reasonable to posit that it is highly unlikely that the U.S. would have attacked Gaddafi if he still had his stockpiles of WMD. That is not a lesson lost on North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, who, we may surmise, does not wish to share Gaddafi’s fate.


And not to put too fine a point on it, Gaddafi’s Libya was a vacation spot compared to life North Korea. Which inescapably leads to the conclusion that the Responsibility to Protect doctrine was a convenient excuse for Hillary Clinton to do some foreign policy grandstanding to burnish her credentials for her Presidential run.


When (as usual) things didn’t turn out so well, Hillary Clinton didn’t pay the price. Ambassador Chris Stevens, Information Officer Sean Smith, CIA operatives Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods paid it along with the immigrants whose bodies’ wash up daily on the shores of the Mediterranean.


And yet, according to Foreign Policy Magazine, Hillary Clinton has “No regrets” about Libya. Her aides and advisors say she “…does not see the Libyan intervention as a failure, but as a work in progress.” She ought to check with the Libyans.


And potential Clinton supporters ought not delude themselves into believing Clinton’s behavior was somehow aberrant. It is of a piece. After all, she thinks the U.S. is also a work in progress that needs her help. The Libyans didn’t get to vote and didn’t have a choice; Americans have lots of choices.



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