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The Never-ending Libyan Afterparty
The Real Policy Failure in Libya

There’s something of a coup underway in Libya. Over the weekend, forces apparently loyal to renegade former general Khalifa Hifter launched attacks against Islamists in Benghazi and assaulted Libya’s Parliament in Tripoli. The WSJ has more:

The revolt by Gen. Khalifa Hifter threatens to detonate the long volatile divisions among the multiple militias that dominate Libya amid the weakness of the central government and military. Hifter says he aims to crush Islamists he accuses of seizing control of the country and he appears to have the support of some militias from the eastern half of the country and the western Zintan region.

Now, in response, the head of Libya’s parliament is mobilizing Islamist forces:

In the other camp, parliament chief Nouri Abu Sahmein —an Islamist-leaning politician—ordered a powerful umbrella group of mainly Islamist militias known as “Libya’s Central Shield” to mobilize on Monday to defend against Hifter’s forces. The umbrella group is dominated by a militia from Libya’s third largest city, Misrata.

Dozens have been killed, dozens more wounded, and the clashes between General Hifter’s forces and Islamist militias don’t seem to be winding down. The country is thoroughly fragmented, flirting with the failed state label.

To the extent that the Western media pays attention to Libya, it has focused on the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, and specifically the domestic politics surrounding the investigation into that incident. Why not focus on the real failure of policy—namely, the muddled thinking that led us into Libya in the first place?

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  • Curious Mayhem

    Because focusing on the real failure of policy would lay bare two things: the Empty Suit in the White House, and the Republicans’ lack of coherent alternatives.

    • ThomasD

      Not being the party in the White House, and therefore lacking any means of implementing a chosen foreign policy, the Republicans have no business trying to offer a ‘coherent alternative.’

      A responsible president, faced with ongoing failure of a chosen policy, does.

      But that would require Obama to admit that he’s botched the job, an act he is incapable of performing.

    • http://abriefhistory.org MichaelKennedy

      Actually, the Republican’s coherent alternative was the status quo ante, which was that Gaddafi had surrendered his nuclear program and was cooperating with intelligence on al Qeada. He had actually begun to deal with American oil companies which enraged the British and French. Every leftist knows they are smarter than we are so we had to follow their policy.

  • Anthony

    “Why not focus on the real failure of policy….” Equally, the acknowledgement that power is neither created nor destroyed but only transformed or transferred foreshadows Libyan misadventure – to overthrow established power is hard enough; to grasp the loosed power in your own hand is harder still.

  • El Gringo

    The U.S. intervention in Libya = condemnation.
    The U.S. failure to intervene in Syria = condemnation.

    U.S. policy = damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t.

    • richard40

      I am glad Obama could not intervene in Syria, since the rebels were mostly Islamists. As for Libya, as bad as Khadafy was, he might have been better than the mess they have there now. I even heard that at one point, Khadafy even offered to completely stop attacking the secular opposition, and agree to step down, provided he could finish off the Islamists first. It might have been worth taking him up on that.

  • lukelea

    “Why not focus on the real failure of policy—namely, the muddled thinking that led us into Libya in the first place?”

    Like the lesson, as we have learned the hard way in Iraq and Afghanistan, that it is a fool’s errand to imagine we can establish liberal democracies in the clan-based, tribal societies of the Middle East?

    The same lesson applies to our attempted intervention in Syria. Willful naiveté — a stubborn, “politically correct” refusal to learn from our mistakes — is the source of the problem. If that is what writer means by “muddled thinking” then I agree.

    • RTO Dude

      I’m not at all convinced that’s the lesson to be learned. We succeeded in establishing an Iraqi democracy, at great cost – then abandoned it.

      • lukelea

        Establishing means you can walk away and it is still there.

        • Bob_from_Ohio

          Its not perfect, but Iraq has a functioning democracy. We may not like its policies but it creaks along.

          • RTO Dude

            It’s unlikely to survive much longer, due to Maliki’s partisan thuggery – which we were in a position to nip in the bud, but didn’t. My opinion, of course, and time will tell.

      • richard40

        The one thing I wish Bush had done in Iraq though would have been to insist on a secular constitution, instead of the one they wrote, which favored the Iranian sympathizing Islamists. When we occupied Japan, we did not just let the Japanese do whatever they wanted, we also insisted on some real permanent reforms.
        But I also agree that Obama prematurely leaving the country also did not help.

  • Humility

    Calling it thinking is deluding ourselves. If you find yourself fighting on the side of people who hate you and have sworn to kill your citizens or convert your country to their own uses, it is time to step back and figure out who the players are and what you are doing there.

  • Bob_from_Ohio

    Why is this a problem? Our enemies are killing each other.

    Make some popcorn and enjoy.

    • richard40

      If the choice is between this Gen Hifter guy, and the Islamist militias, I’ll take the general, although you are probably right that the less we do here the better.

  • bittman

    Sarah Palin recommended the USA stay out of the Middle East Arab Spring countries and let Allah decide the outcome. Considering that the Muslim Brotherhood folks hate the West, letting them fight among each other doesn’t sound like a bad approach…especially when their leaders resort to cutting out and eating the hearts of people they have killed. With a national debt of $17.5 trillion, we are in no position to police the world’s barbarians. Let the Europeans who live much closer decide the best way they want to handle this and ensure peace and equality for their collective under the European Union Board

  • richard40

    If the Islamist militias take over Libya, we may start wishing we had let Khadafy win. As awful as he was, at least he renounced his nukes and opposed el Qaida and the Islamists.

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