During the course of the Democratic Party debate on Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton was asked to defend her disastrous intervention in Libya. In response, Clinton hailed Libya as “smart power at its best,” capturing a delusion that appears to be very common in the current iteration of her Party: the belief that magical “coalitions” of good guys can be whistled into existence to handle foreign-policy crises.
If such a belief had any grounding in reality – and it doesn’t – Hillary Clinton has proven herself an exceptionally poor choice to be America’s Whistler-in-Chief.
Clinton’s remarks on Libya, from the Washington Post’s transcript, began as follows:
Well, let’s remember what was going on. We had a murderous dictator, Gadhafi, who had American blood on his hands, as I’m sure you remember, threatening to massacre large numbers of the Libyan people. We had our closest allies in Europe burning up the phone lines begging us to help them try to prevent what they saw as a mass genocide, in their words. And we had the Arabs standing by our side saying, “We want you to help us deal with Gadhafi.”
Our response, which I think was smart power at its best, is that the United States will not lead this. We will provide essential, unique capabilities that we have, but the Europeans and the Arabs had to be first over the line. We did not put one single American soldier on the ground in Libya. And I’ll say this for the Libyan people…
There is no shortage of murderous dictators with blood on their hands in the world. Whether Qaddafi was poised to carry out a “mass genocide” is a matter of considerable debate, not the open-and-shut case for intervention Clinton presents it as. “Killing a large number of your insurgent citizens” is not the definition of “genocide,” no matter how reprehensible it might be, or how richly an evil dictator deserves to be deposed.
The Democratic Party has been driven so utterly around the bend by its Bush-hating rhetoric, and its determination to score political points by losing the Iraq War, that it thinks the presence of American boots on the ground is the sole metric of military success. Clinton’s definition of “smart power at its best” is the United States launching a far more unilateral, unwise, and poorly-conducted war than Iraq, because Europeans pushed Clinton into it, and then Clinton badgered President Obama until he agreed.
Comparisons between Libya and Iraq are silly. Libya is much, much worse than Iraq, from inception to its current disastrous state. Unlike George Bush, President Obama did not secure congressional approval. The Iraq intelligence on WMD may have been substantially mistaken – although, contrary to Democrat mythology, it most certainly was not entirely mistaken, as Saddam did indeed have WMD stocks – but that intelligence was sincere. Professional analysts in multiple nations believed it with a high level of confidence.
President Obama and Clinton dithered too long and missed the best moment to strike, if they were truly inclined to do so. By waiting until Qaddafi recovered from early defeats and drove his rebels back to the verge of slaughter, they weakened Libya and made it easier prey for ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the other bands of savages currently fighting for turf.
They worked hard to distract the American people from seeing the grisly fruits of their labors, which is one of the reasons the consulate in Benghazi was so disgracefully unprepared for a terrorist attack on Clinton’s watch – and that, in turn, is why she lied extravagantly about the nature of that terrorist attack during the 2012 election. Then she worked overtime concealing her dereliction of duty and thwarting congressional oversight, which is why the Benghazi investigation she keeps complaining about is still in progress.
CNN moderator Anderson Cooper asked Clinton about those deaths in Benghazi, although he sadly missed the opportunity to challenge her to name the four dead men. Her response:
But let — I’ll get to that. But I think it’s important, since I understand Senator Webb’s very strong feelings about this, to explain where we were then and to point out that I think President Obama made the right decision at the time.
And the Libyan people had a free election the first time since 1951. And you know what, they voted for moderates, they voted with the hope of democracy. Because of the Arab Spring, because of a lot of other things, there was turmoil to be followed.
But unless you believe the United States should not send diplomats to any place that is dangerous, which I do not, then when we send them forth, there is always the potential for danger and risk.
Libya’s “free election” vote for “moderates” in the blossoming of the “Arab Spring” means absolutely nothing. The country is run by warlords and terror gangs, thanks to Clinton and Obama’s blunders. The “moderate” government can’t even sit in the capital of Tripoli, because a different gang controls that city. Clinton’s rival Jim Webb touched on this point after her remarks by saying, “Try to get to the Tripoli airport today. You can’t do it.”
The Arab Spring was no flowering of democracy – it was anarchy unleashed, followed by takeovers from organized Islamist thugs like the Muslim Brotherhood.
Our choice is not between getting ambassadors killed, and never sending them anyplace dangerous. Hillary Clinton oversaw the first death of an American ambassador in decades. Chris Stevens died because of her failures, not because he rolled the dice by going somewhere dangerous and came up snake eyes. He was sent into a terrorist hot zone with nonexistent protection, in stubborn defiance of several violent outbreaks in the area, with absolutely no “Plan B” to rescue him if anything went wrong. Brave men defied instructions and raced to his side, dying in battle against a terrorist enemy whose identity Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama lied about copiously to conceal for as long as possible.
The media action line Wednesday morning was that Clinton “won” the debate and firmed up her position as a front-running candidate. In truth, her competitors scored some points against her on Libya, including Webb pointing out her procedural errors: “We had no treaties at risk. We had no Americans at risk. There was no threat of attack or imminent attack. There is plenty of time for a president to come to the Congress and request authority to use military force in that situation.”
And even Martin O’Malley made a solid point about how badly Clinton and Obama fumbled the pre-war intelligence: “I think there’s lessons to be learned from Benghazi. And those lessons are that we need to do a much better job as a nation of having human intelligence on the ground so that we know who the emerging next generation leaders are that are coming up to replace a dictator when his time on this planet ends.”
None of that will matter much in the Democrat primary, because O’Malley is not a plausible candidate, while Webb is a plausible candidate for the Republican Party. But sharp Republican candidates should be able to see plenty of opportunities to hit Clinton hard on Libya, working from her ridiculous responses on Tuesday night. They should also clearly see that the debate moderators will not ask those questions for them.
If Libya was “smart power at its best,” we really don’t want to see what smart power at its worst looks like.