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Can We Just Admit That the Libyan Adventure Was a Really Bad Idea?


More bad news from the Libyan Afterparty. The Prime Minister, Ali Zeidan, was briefly kidnapped earlier today—apparently, the NYT reports, because of his cooperation with the US in tracking down the perpetrators of the attack on our diplomats in Benghazi.

The Libyan intervention was a thoughtlessly conceived, poorly executed, casually thrown together operation approved by careless idealists who neither really knew or cared what the repercussions of their self indulgent spasm of moralism would have in the real world.

A major result of this mindless exercise was to make it impossible to deal effectively with the much greater humanitarian and strategic disaster that has unfolded in Syria—and whose outlines were already visible when our noble idealists set a course for Tripoli.

In addition to entering lightly on this venture, they have failed to follow through—forgetting one of the most important lessons of Iraq. To wit: a dangerous vacuum appears when you break a personalistic dictatorship in the Arab world. There is no state and no order to succeed the dictator once he is gone. People who spent the length of the Bush presidency excoriating the Administration for failing to exercise sound planning for the aftermath of the Iraq war turned around and did the same thing in Libya once they were in power.

It is exercises like this that give humanitarians and idealists such a lousy reputation in the field of international affairs. Good intentions unmoored from judgment and sobriety are lethal weapons that have wrecked and will wreck the lives and happiness of millions. Apparently President Obama believes that the best way to reward those who designed (if we can use a word that implies conscious thought and planning) the Libyan misadventure is to promote them to higher positions. That is his choice, and a President should be able to choose his advisers. But if he wants to understand why so few people in the Middle East, friend or foe, have much respect for his policy initiatives, he should take a long, hard look at what he did in Libya and what has happened since.

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  • qet

    Now this is the sort of Koestlerian ruthless truth-telling that keeps me coming back to Via Meadia! Punches 1, Pulled 0.

  • Corlyss

    If VM is waiting for the administration to admit it, lay in plenty of provisions cuz it’s going to be a loooooooooooooooooooog wait. Dear Leader in particular NEVER admits he did anything wrong or made a mistake.

  • Loader2000

    Long term, it is hard to say if it was a failure or not.
    South Korea oscillated between democracy and a sort of
    dictatorship for years after the Korean war, but eventually, transitioned to
    democracy. Of course, South Korea wasn’t
    torn apart by tribal factions the way Libya and Iraq are. Nevertheless, it is hard to predict where
    these states (in which we have intervened) will be in 30 years, had we not
    intervened. In WRM’s book ‘God and Gold’
    the professor suggests that there is a sort of God (or nature) driven force
    that acts on societies which have been freed which, eventually, after many
    starts and stops, drives them toward liberal democracies, at least for
    societies that are open enough to embrace some amount of change. I wouldn’t rule out these same forces acting
    on the Middle East. It just won’t happen
    overnight. However, that doesn’t mean
    that recent interventions which, at the very least, significantly stirred the
    pot, won’t accelerate this process.

  • avery12

    Why reach this conclusion vis a vis Libya yet urge for involvement backing ‘moderate’ rebels in Syria?

    • Matt B

      An excellent question. VM, please explain.

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