The Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the British Parliament has published a scathing report on David Cameron’s intervention in Libya, finding it was “carried out with no proper intelligence analysis, drifted into an unannounced goal of regime change and shirked its moral responsibility to help reconstruct the country following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi,” as the UK Guardian puts it.
“It concurs with Barack Obama’s assessment that the intervention was ‘a s***show,’ and repeats the US president’s claim that France and Britain lost interest in Libya after Gaddafi was overthrown,” the Guardian continues. “The findings are also likely to be seized on by Donald Trump, who has tried to undermine Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy credentials by repeatedly condemning her handling of the Libyan intervention in 2011, when she was US Secretary of State.”
The Guardian then proceeds to “undermine Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy credentials,” describing the state of affairs in Libya:
Libya is currently mired in political and economic chaos with competing factions fighting for control of the key oil terminals and no nationwide support for the UN-recognised government based in Tripoli. Tens of thousands of refugees are entering the country with impunity from the rest of Africa and sailing to Europe on perilous journeys.
Cameron’s critics slammed him for allowing a limited and straightforward operation to protect rebel forces from a massacre at Moammar Qaddafi’s hands to slide into a long misadventure in regime change, after which “we had no proper appreciation of what was going to happen in the event of regime change, no proper understanding of Libya, and no proper plan for the consequences,” as Conservative MP Crispin Blunt said.
For his part, Cameron “refused to give evidence to the select committee,” contenting himself with blaming the Libyan people for “failing to take their chance of democracy.”
What the Libyan people got, according to the Foreign Affairs Committee report, was “political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIS in north Africa.”
The report asserted that the original goal of protecting civilians in Benghazi from Qaddafi was “achieved in March 2011 in less than 24 hours,” but former defense secretary Liam Fox improbably insisted the “strategic goals never changed.”
The committee blasted Cameron’s government for failing to account for “Libyan connections with transnational militant extremist groups,” failing to properly analyze “the nature of the rebellion in Libya,” failing to “verify the actual threat to civilians posed by the Qaddafi regime,” and selectively taking elements of Qaddafi’s rhetoric “at face value.”
Interestingly, the committee also faulted Cameron for failing to take advantage of his predecessor Tony Blair’s contacts with the Qaddafi regime, noting that Blair was on the phone trying to convince the Libyan dictator to pull back from Benghazi as the Western bombing campaign got under way.
“The calls were at Blair’s initiative, but Cameron and Clinton were aware of them,” the Guardian notes.
The Foreign Office responded to these findings by insisting “Qaddafi was unpredictable, and he had the means and motivations to carry out his threats” against the Libyan population. Calls for intervention from the Arab League and United Nations were also cited.
The BBC’s James Landale called the Foreign Affairs Committee’s criticism “weighty,” with the subtext that “the lessons of Iraq were ignored” — which would be an even more trenchant criticism of the Libyan disaster’s chief architect, Hillary Clinton, who makes a great deal of noise about regretting her vote in favor of the Iraq war.
“Yet in truth the report also reveals the uncertainty among policymakers about military intervention, torn between avoiding another Srebrenica-style massacre when the West turned a blind eye to the killings of Muslims by Bosnian Serbs in 1995 and the need to avoid another Iraq-style intervention when Western countries got bogged down in an internal conflict,” Landale added. “What happened in Libya was a half and half policy, of intervention without occupation. And it is a model that did not work.”