Hillary’s Running On Her “Experience”–Which Includes Starting A Pointless War In Libya
Hillary is running for President on her “experience,” which, indeed, she has a lot of. But does she have much success?
In other competitive endeavors, like sports, unsuccessful individuals don’t usually get much experience because they quickly get fired or replaced. But Hillary has gotten a lot of experience by being married to a talented politician, who found it a good idea to claim that she really ought to be the president, and then when he got term-limited out, did the usual banana republic thing of running the wife in his place.
But her actual track record …
From the NYT a month ago:
The president was wary. The secretary of state was persuasive. But the ouster of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi left Libya a failed state and a terrorist haven.
By JO BECKER and SCOTT SHANE FEB. 27, 2016
By the time Mahmoud Jibril cleared customs at Le Bourget airport and sped into Paris, the American secretary of state had been waiting for hours. But this was not a meeting Hillary Clinton could cancel. Their encounter could decide whether America was again going to war.
In the throes of the Arab Spring, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was facing a furious revolt by Libyans determined to end his quixotic 42-year rule. The dictator’s forces were approaching Benghazi, the crucible of the rebellion, and threatening a blood bath. France and Britain were urging the United States to join them in a military campaign to halt Colonel Qaddafi’s troops, and now the Arab League, too, was calling for action.
President Obama was deeply wary of another military venture in a Muslim country. Most of his senior advisers were telling him to stay out. Still, he dispatched Mrs. Clinton to sound out Mr. Jibril, a leader of the Libyan opposition. Their late-night meeting on March 14, 2011, would be the first chance for a top American official to get a sense of whom, exactly, the United States was being asked to support.
In her suite at the Westin, she and Mr. Jibril, a political scientist with a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh, spoke at length about the fast-moving military situation in Libya. …
Did the opposition’s Transitional National Council really represent the whole of a deeply divided country, or just one region? What if Colonel Qaddafi quit, fled or was killed — did they have a plan for what came next?
“She was asking every question you could imagine,” Mr. Jibril recalled.
Mrs. Clinton was won over. Opposition leaders “said all the right things about supporting democracy and inclusivity and building Libyan institutions, providing some hope that we might be able to pull this off,” said Philip H. Gordon, one of her assistant secretaries. “They gave us what we wanted to hear. And you do want to believe.”
Her conviction would be critical in persuading Mr. Obama to join allies in bombing Colonel Qaddafi’s forces. 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.
Might I propose that when contemplating starting an international war of choice that 51-49 isn’t the right decision rule? Instead, 80-20 ought to be the minimum.
Obama has been selling out Hillary on the Libyan War lately. He wants it off his legacy and onto hers.
The consequences would be more far-reaching than anyone imagined, leaving Libya a failed state and a terrorist haven, a place where the direst answers to Mrs. Clinton’s questions have come to pass.
This is the story of how a woman whose Senate vote for the Iraq war may have doomed her first presidential campaign nonetheless doubled down and pushed for military action in another Muslim country. As she once again seeks the White House, campaigning in part on her experience as the nation’s chief diplomat, an examination of the intervention she championed shows her at what was arguably her moment of greatest influence as secretary of state. It is a working portrait rich with evidence of what kind of president she might be, and especially of her expansive approach to the signal foreign-policy conundrum of today: whether, when and how the United States should wield its military power in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
From the earliest days of the Libya debate, Mrs. Clinton was a diligent student and unrelenting inquisitor, absorbing fat briefing books, inviting dissenting views from subordinates, studying foreign counterparts to learn how to win them over. She was a pragmatist, willing to improvise — to try the bank-shot solution. But above all, in the view of many who have watched her up close, her record on Libya illustrates how, facing a national-security or foreign-policy quandary, she was inclined to act — in marked contrast to Mr. Obama’s more reticent approach.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, her director of policy planning at the State Department, notes that in conversation and in her memoir, Mrs. Clinton repeatedly speaks of wanting to be “caught trying.” In other words, she would rather be criticized for what she has done than for having done nothing at all.
… The New York Times’s examination of the intervention offers a detailed accounting of how Mrs. Clinton’s deep belief in America’s power to do good in the world ran aground in a tribal country with no functioning government, rival factions and a staggering quantity of arms. The Times interviewed more than 50 American, Libyan and European officials, including many of the principal actors. Virtually all agreed to comment on the record. They expressed regret, frustration and in some cases bewilderment about what went wrong and what might have been done differently.
… Libya’s descent into chaos began with a rushed decision to go to war, made in what one top official called a “shadow of uncertainty” as to Colonel Qaddafi’s intentions. The mission inexorably evolved even as Mrs. Clinton foresaw some of the hazards of toppling another Middle Eastern strongman. She pressed for a secret American program that supplied arms to rebel militias, an effort never before confirmed.
Only after Colonel Qaddafi fell and what one American diplomat called “the endorphins of revolution” faded did it become clear that Libya’s new leaders were unequal to the task of unifying the country, and that the elections Mrs. Clinton and President Obama pointed to as proof of success only deepened Libya’s divisions.
Now Libya, with a population smaller than that of Tennessee, poses an outsize security threat to the region and beyond, calling into question whether the intervention prevented a humanitarian catastrophe or merely helped create one of a different kind.
The looting of Colonel Qaddafi’s vast weapons arsenals during the intervention has fed the Syrian civil war, empowered terrorist and criminal groups from Nigeria to Sinai, and destabilized Mali, where Islamist militants stormed a Radisson hotel in November and killed 20 people.
A growing trade in humans has sent a quarter-million refugees north across the Mediterranean, with hundreds drowning en route. A civil war in Libya has left the country with two rival governments, cities in ruins and more than 4,000 dead.
Amid that fighting, the Islamic State has built its most important outpost on the Libyan shore, a redoubt to fall back upon as it is bombed in Syria and Iraq. …
… Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, has seized on her role in the larger narrative of the Libyan intervention; during a recent debate, he said he feared that “Secretary Clinton is too much into regime change.”
President Obama has called failing to do more in Libya his biggest foreign policy lesson. And Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to the United Nations during the revolution, is deeply troubled by the aftermath of the 2011 intervention: the Islamic State only “300 miles from Europe,” a refugee crisis that “is a human tragedy as well as a political one” and the destabilization of much of West Africa.
… But a far more formidable lineup was outspoken against an American commitment, including Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Tom Donilon, the national security adviser; and Mr. Gates, the defense secretary, who did not want to divert American air power or attention away from Afghanistan and Iraq. If the Europeans were so worried about Libya, they argued, let them take responsibility for its future.
“I think at one point I said, ‘Can I finish the two wars I’m already in before you guys go looking for a third one?’” Mr. Gates recalled. Colonel Qaddafi, he said, “was not a threat to us anywhere. He was a threat to his own people, and that was about it.”
Some senior intelligence officials had deep misgivings about what would happen if Colonel Qaddafi lost control. In recent years, the Libyan dictator had begun aiding the United States in its fight against Al Qaeda in North Africa.
“He was a thug in a dangerous neighborhood,” said Michael T. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general who headed the Defense Intelligence Agency at the time. “But he was keeping order.”
More notably, Kaffaffee had made a deal with the U.S. in 2003 to stop stirring up trouble abroad. This was the main positive accomplishment of the Iraq Invasion.
Mrs. Clinton had cultivated a close relationship with Mr. Gates. Both tended to be more hawkish than the president. They had raised concerns about how rapidly he wanted to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. More recently, they had argued that Mr. Obama should not be too hasty in dropping support for Hosni Mubarak, the embattled Egyptian leader, whom Mrs. Clinton had known since her years as the first lady.
But they had lost out to the younger aides — “the backbenchers,” Mr. Gates called them, who he said argued that in the moral clash of the Arab Spring, “Mr. President, you’ve got to be on the right side of history.”
Presidents should ban theirs aides from using their own bogus rhetoric on them.
In Libya, Mrs. Clinton had a new opportunity to support the historic change that had just swept out the leaders of its neighbors Egypt and Tunisia. And Libya seemed a tantalizingly easy case — with just six million people, no sectarian divide and plenty of oil.
But the debate was handicapped by sketchy intelligence. Top State Department officials were busy trying to evacuate the American Embassy, fearing that the Libyan leader might use diplomats as hostages. There was no inside information on whether, or on what scale, Colonel Qaddafi would carry out his threats.
“We, the U.S., did not have a particularly good handle on what was going on inside Libya,” said Derek Chollet, a State Department aide who moved to the National Security Council as the Libya debate began. American officials were relying largely on news reports, he said.
Human Rights Watch would later count about 350 protesters killed before the intervention — not the thousands described in some media accounts. But inside the Obama administration, few doubted that Colonel Qaddafi would do what it took to remain in power.
“Of course, he would have lined up the tanks and just gone after folks,” said David H. Petraeus, the retired general and former C.I.A. director.
My reading of the war in North Africa in the 1940s suggests that the rebels had the option of withdrawing from Benghazi and digging in in Tobruk, which famously held out for 241 days against Rommel before being successfully relieved. If the rebels didn’t have what it took to do that, they could be evacuated from Tobruk by land through Egypt or by air or sea. So the time pressure on the Obama Administration was actually less intense than they’ve made it sound.
… So, after some initial doubts, Mrs. Clinton diverged from the other senior members of the administration.
The comparison with Mr. Biden was revealing. For the vice president, according to Antony J. Blinken, then his national security adviser and now deputy secretary of state, the lesson of Iraq was crucial — “what Biden called not the day after, but the decade after.”
“What’s the plan?” Mr. Blinken continued. “There is going to be some kind of vacuum, and how’s it going to be filled, and what are we doing to fill it?” Former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s famous adage about Iraq — if “you break it, you own it” — loomed large.
More decisive for Mrs. Clinton were two episodes from her husband’s presidency — the American failure to prevent the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and the success, albeit belated, in bringing together an international military coalition to prevent greater bloodshed after 8,000 Muslims were massacred in Srebrenica during the Bosnian war. …
When Mr. Jibril and his Libyan entourage showed up in Rome in May to meet with Mrs. Clinton, they expected a 10-minute check-in. Instead, they talked for nearly an hour.
The opposition leaders had already given her a white paper setting out a spectacular future: Political parties would compete in open elections, a free news media would hold leaders accountable and women’s rights would be respected.
In retrospect, Mr. Jibril acknowledged in an interview, it was a “utopian ideal” quite detached from Libyan reality. But Mrs. Clinton had been enthusiastic, according to those in attendance, and now she wanted to talk in greater depth about how to turn the vision into reality.
So how are women’s rights doing in Libya, anyway?