The epitaph on Barack Obama’s Libya policy will read: He Meant Well.
So explains Alan Kuperman in Foreign Affairs, the most respected foreign policy journal in America highly respected journal. The article is well-researched and very serious.
Kuperman teaches at the University of Texas at Austin. He is an expert on the “blowback” from what are called humanitarian interventions in foreign policy. One might say that he is the inverse of Samantha Power.
You recall that Samantha Power was one of the presiding “geniuses” who formulated the Obama administration Libya policy. Currently, she is our ambassador to the United Nations.
One is amazed to recognize that the American media has mostly ignored such a colossal foreign policy failure. Could it be because it wants, above all else, to put one of the architect of this policy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the White House. It does not need mentioning, but such a policy failure had been crafted by a Republican administration you would be hearing about it all day, every day.
In the immediate wake of the military victory, U.S. officials were triumphant. Writing in these pages in 2012, Ivo Daalder, then the U.S. permanent representative to NATO, and James Stavridis, then supreme allied commander of Europe, declared, “NATO’s operation in Libya has rightly been hailed as a model intervention.” In the Rose Garden after Qaddafi’s death, Obama himself crowed, “Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives.” Indeed, the United States seemed to have scored a hat trick: nurturing the Arab Spring, averting a Rwanda-like genocide, and eliminating Libya as a potential source of terrorism.
That verdict, however, turns out to have been premature. In retrospect, Obama’s intervention in Libya was an abject failure, judged even by its own standards. Libya has not only failed to evolve into a democracy; it has devolved into a failed state. Violent deaths and other human rights abuses have increased severalfold. Rather than helping the United States combat terrorism, as Qaddafi did during his last decade in power, Libya now serves as a safe haven for militias affiliated with both al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The Libya intervention has harmed other U.S. interests as well: undermining nuclear nonproliferation, chilling Russian cooperation at the UN, and fueling Syria’s civil war.
Despite what defenders of the mission claim, there was a better policy available—not intervening at all, because peaceful Libyan civilians were not actually being targeted. Had the United States and its allies followed that course, they could have spared Libya from the resulting chaos and given it a chance of progress under Qaddafi’s chosen successor: his relatively liberal, Western-educated son Saif al-Islam. Instead, Libya today is riddled with vicious militias and anti-American terrorists—and thus serves as a cautionary tale of how humanitarian intervention can backfire for both the intervener and those it is intended to help.