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The Examiner’s Tim Carney posts on a New Yorker article on Libya’s chaos.
President Obama attacked Libya in 2011 without congressional authority, and then shirked any responsibility to help stabilize the country after deposing its dictator.
By 2013, Libya had become a chaotic hellhole mired in a permanent war. Today it is a new beachhead and recruiting ground for the Islamic State.
Obama’s illegal, ill-considered, and immoral drive-by war in Libya ought to be a permanent stain on his presidency. The recent video of masked ISIS killers beheading 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya deserves to be the emblem of this president’s rash foreign policy.
“There is no overstating the chaos of post-Qaddafi Libya,” writes veteran war journalist Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker. “Two competing governments claim legitimacy. Armed militias roam the streets. The electricity is frequently out of service, and most business is at a standstill….”
Wars in Libya in the past year alone have taken about as many lives as 9/11 did. Those who can get out flee. Anderson reports that “nearly a third of the country’s population has fled across the border to Tunisia.”
The militants of the Islamic State are actually late arrivals to the “scumbag Woodstock” Libya has become, in the words a military contractor quoted by Daily Beast reporter Eli Lake. …
… At every stage, though, the administration behaved shamefully. Obama never tried to persuade Americans his war was just. He never sought the congressional action that would have made his war — sorry, his “kinetic military action” — legal. At one point, administration officials even floated the idea that they could frustrate the intent of the 1973 War Powers Resolution and its 60-day limit on unauthorized wars by momentarily stopping and then immediately restarting U.S. involvement. Obama never told the truth, perhaps for fear it would make his war more unpopular. And he never made the commitment to staying and rebuilding that could have made his war a success.
For some reason, Obama’s Libya war has received scant attention, both from his critics and from media commentators assessing his presidency. The people of Libya and surrounding countries, however, don’t have the luxury of ignoring the consequences.
The left media can no longer ignore the administration’s foreign policy failures and follies. Even The New Yorker can’t continue to look away. Tim Carney’s above article posted on a New Yorker piece. Here that is. It is organized around the story of Gen. Khalifa Haftar who left his 20 year home in Northern Virginia to lead one of the factions fighting in Libya. This is 7,000 words. Sorry about that, but at least this is the last posting for the week.
Early last year, General Khalifa Haftar left his home in northern Virginia—where he had spent most of the previous two decades, at least some of that time working with the Central Intelligence Agency—and returned to Tripoli to fight his latest war for control of Libya. Haftar, who is a mild-looking man in his early seventies, has fought with and against nearly every significant faction in the country’s conflicts, leading to a reputation for unrivalled military experience and for a highly flexible sense of personal allegiance. In the Green Mountains, the country’s traditional hideout for rebels and insurgents, he established a military headquarters, inside an old airbase surrounded by red-earth farmland and groves of hazelnut and olive trees. Haftar’s force, which he calls the Libyan National Army, has taken much of the eastern half of the country, in an offensive known as Operation Dignity. Most of the remainder, including the capital city of Tripoli, is held by Libya Dawn, a loose coalition of militias, many of them working in a tactical alliance with Islamist extremists. Much as General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has boasted of doing in Egypt, General Haftar proposes to destroy the Islamist forces and bring peace and stability—enforced by his own army. …
… There is no overstating the chaos of post-Qaddafi Libya. Two competing governments claim legitimacy. Armed militias roam the streets. The electricity is frequently out of service, and most business is at a standstill; revenues from oil, the country’s greatest asset, have dwindled by more than ninety per cent. Some three thousand people have been killed by fighting in the past year, and nearly a third of the country’s population has fled across the border to Tunisia. What has followed the downfall of a tyrant—a downfall encouraged by NATO air strikes—is the tyranny of a dangerous and pervasive instability. …
… Libyans gradually learned to navigate the violence. A young Tripoli businessman who asked to be called Mohamed told me of getting a call last July, telling him that two militias were fighting on the road to the airport. “The morning it started, my partner tried to drive to our office and got turned back,” he said. Mohamed headed to the office anyway; their employees’ payroll money was held in a safe there, and he wanted to retrieve it before it was destroyed or looted. “There were literally bullets flying right overhead,” he said. He managed to get the money and leave the city, negotiating the militia roadblocks using a credential that a highly placed friend had given him. “All along the airport road, there were no-go zones, with separate battles going on, and both sides ransacking people’s houses.”
With the fighting in Tripoli, two opposing armies took shape. The group aligned against Haftar, Libya Dawn, is an uneasy coalition; it includes former Al Qaeda jihadists who fought against Qaddafi in the nineties, Berber ethnic militias, members of Libya’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and a network of conservative merchants from Misrata, whose fighters make up the largest block of Libya Dawn’s forces. Haftar’s army is composed mainly of Qaddafi-era soldiers and federalists seeking greater autonomy for the eastern region of Cyrenaica, mixed with tribal fighters from the west and the south. …
… The regional implications of Libya’s breakdown are vast. The southern desert offers unguarded crossings into Algeria, Niger, Chad, and Sudan, where armed bands—including human traffickers and jihadists from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb—roam freely in four-wheel-drive convoys. Huge numbers of migrants, mostly Africans but also some Middle Easterners, are being smuggled through Libya. At the Mediterranean coast, they are placed in overcrowded boats and pointed toward Italy, where the fortunate ones are picked up by the coast guard or by passing cargo ships. Last year, the number of migrants reaching Italy in this fashion rose to a hundred and seventy thousand; more than three thousand are believed to have drowned at sea. In early February, another three hundred died.
Libya has long been an isolated and constricted place, and the revolution has done little to change that. Since July, Tripoli’s only functioning airport has been Mitiga, a former U.S. airbase that Qaddafi took over in 1970. Then Haftar’s bombers struck Mitiga, and for a time there were no flights there, either.
Many of the young Libyans I met during the revolution are now in Tunisia, Egypt, Bulgaria, London—anywhere but Libya. The exiles who came back to build a new country have largely left. The people who have remained are those who can’t get out, and they mostly stay close to home. In any case, there’s little to do. Many shops are closed during the day, opening for a few hours after evening prayers; there are no women to be seen on the streets. There are sporadic bursts of gunfire and explosions, and it is impossible to tell whether someone is being shot or someone is cleaning a gun on a rooftop. Nobody asks; Libyans have become inured to war, and, in any case, decades of secret-police surveillance have conditioned them not to inquire into the causes of violence. …
… Benjamin Rhodes, the deputy national-security adviser and a close confidant of Obama’s, acknowledged that Libya’s situation was grim. “Getting the technocrats and the guys with the guns on the same page has been very difficult,” he said. “The first task is to get them in conversation where they can receive help from us. We’re doing this through a U.N. initiative, plus some quiet diplomacy behind the scenes.” He noted that there has also been occasional military action. Last June, Delta Force operatives abducted Ahmed Abu Khattala, an Ansar member who is suspected of leading the attack that killed Ambassador Stevens. Khattala is now awaiting trial in the U.S. “The trick is for us to help people get back to the point where the Libyans can achieve what their revolution was about in the first place,” Rhodes said. “But it’s probably not going to happen on Washington’s timeline.”
Rhodes was one of the aides who, along with Clinton, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power, helped persuade Obama to join the intervention. In spite of the chaos that followed, he stands by that decision. “We saved a lot of lives in Benghazi and the rest of the country,” he said. “If Qaddafi had gone into Benghazi, I think Libya would look more like Syria today.” He added, “What did we do wrong? Even the President would acknowledge that it’s been extremely difficult to fill the vacuum in Libya. We were keen for the Libyans to take the lead. Everyone knows the dangers of a completely U.S.-owned postwar environment. We might have used a heavier hand, but there’s no guarantee it would have made a difference.” …
First the New Yorker, and from Power Line we learn the Brookings Institution can’t avoid the trainwreck.
… The center-liberal Brookings Institution reported last week on the range of surveys of presidential experts (mostly liberals one can safely assume) who rank Obama as no more than middling. But Brookings decided to do their own survey of academic political scientists, and some of it is rather brutal for The One:
“First, President Obama ranks 18th overall, but beneath the surface of the aggregate figures lurks evidence of significant ambivalence. For example, those who view Obama as one of the worst American presidents outnumber those who view him as one of the best by nearly a 3-1 margin. Similarly, nearly twice as many respondents view Obama as over-rated than do those who consider him under-rated. One area where there is significant expert consensus about the president, however, concerns how polarizing he is viewed as being – only George W. Bush was viewed as more a more polarizing president.
Next, Obama does not perform well on more specific dimensions of presidential greatness, often viewed as average or worse. For example, he is the midpoint in terms of both personal integrity and military skill (e.g., 10th of 19 in both categories), but falls to 11th when it comes to diplomatic skill and 13th with respect to legislative skill. . .
What can we take away from this? First, it is easy to infer that scholars and the public alike expected greatness from Obama early on and awarded it to him prematurely. . .
Second, scholars seem to hold Barack Obama in high regard personally, but view his skills and performance as mediocre to poor. Few think of Obama as an excellent president, while many more rate his presidency quite low. . .
It could be worse for Obama. Barring unforeseen scandal, he’s unlikely to become significantly less popular. .”
That closer is a real vote of confidence. …
Andrew Malcolm with late night humor.
Meyers: A Tennessee lawmaker is pushing to make the Bible the official state book. It would replace Tennessee’s current state book, the menu at Cracker Barrel.
Conan: A Glasgow man was attacked in a movie theater by three rowdy women during “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The police handcuffed the women, so their plan worked perfectly.
Fallon: Congress is considering a law to allow commuters to bring their dogs and cats on Amtrak trains. It’s all part of its plan to make Amtrak smell BETTER.