PENTAGON OFFICIAL: America’s Failure Is Hillary Inc’s 2016 Politics

Joseph Miller Contributor
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Joseph Miller is the pen name for a ranking Department of Defense official with a background in U.S. special operations and combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has worked in strategic planning.

On Saturday, an embarrassed United States witnessed the full realization of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s failure in Libya. Remembering her husband’s failure to halt a 1990s Rwandan genocide — and informed by her coming presidential aspirations — Clinton advised President Barack Obama to enter the United States into an untenable situation. He listened; she left; and he failed.

On Saturday, July 26, the Department of Defense facilitated the evacuation and abandonment of the United States Embassy in Tripoli, Libya amid a rapidly deteriorating security situation in that country — some two and a half years after the United States helped to overthrow that country’s government.

U.S. Marine Embassy guards, along with Marine infantry reinforcements deployed over the last month under the banner of Task Force Tripoli, drove approximately the 100 remaining U.S. Department of State personnel in an armored convoy 70 miles across the border into neighboring Tunisia under the cover of U.S. fighter aircraft.

The effects of the U.S. departure from Libya are both tangible and symbolic, and are indicative of a failed U.S. policy toward that country and the Arab Spring movement on a whole.

From the onset of the Libyan civil war, both the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency determined that there was no discernible U.S. national security interest in Libya. Accordingly, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and then-Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta advised against U.S. military intervention in Libya.

Both Gates and Panetta argued that if the president intervened to protect civilians, he would establish a policy position that would require him to do so in other countries under similar circumstances — in the midst of the Arab Spring — or risk U.S. credibility abroad. The U.S. military was capable of doing the job — the question was whether or not it should be done.

Gates and Panetta further argued that this was neither wise nor prudent, given the enormity of the U.S. debt and our inability to finance such military interventions, as well as the frequency with which they would be required, given the state of affairs in the region. In light of the current situation in Libya, Syria, Iraq, etc. and the negative international response to the lack of action and leadership displayed by the Obama administration to date, it is scary to think about just how right these two men were.

At the time, their collective advice did not fall on deaf ears as, by all accounts, Obama was also not keen to take military action. However, it has been well documented that the president was swayed by then-Secretary of State Clinton and then-Special Assistant to the President Samantha Power to do just that.

Clinton argued passionately in favor of military intervention to prevent additional civilian casualties at the hands of Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, describes his failure to intervene in the Rwanda genocide as the lowest moment of his presidency. Bearing that in mind, Secretary Clinton did not want a similar event to occur on her watch as secretary of state, because she intended to run for the presidency in 2016 and didn’t want to give her challengers any ammunition to use against her. So, she decided to push for action despite the advice against doing so by her colleagues at CIA and the Pentagon.

The problem was that Clinton’s State Department lacked a plan, and remained woefully underprepared and under-resourced, to assist the post-Gadhafi government in Libya with either nation- or state-building.

This is incredible, as Democrats have spent the last 10 years lambasting the former Bush administration for failing to have a post-invasion plan for Iraq following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Only in this case, it is even more incredulous because both Obama and Clinton had the hindsight of the failures of Iraq.

The same failures have now occurred in Libya, and the Obama administration doesn’t have a plan or a policy to address it despite having campaigned on the Iraq issue for many years. For Clinton, however, that was less important than allowing a large number of civilians to be killed on her watch (though her motivation was less than noble). So long as the U.S. military prevented further civilian casualties, the failure of the overall U.S. policy in Libya would be someone else’s fault, as she knew her time in the administration was rapidly coming to a close as she prepared for her almost-certain presidential run.

Most importantly, the current crises in both Iraq and Syria should serve as yet another warning to the administration about the negative effects of failing to plan and adequately resource the State Department and other government agencies and departments charged with nation and state building. Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Syria and many other countries lack the basic social and political institutions required to facilitate the transition to a peaceful democracy.

It is worth noting that democratizing states tend to be the most violent, but this can be mitigated to a certain extent by ensuring the engines of social and political changes are healthy and functioning.

This is particularly relevant and timely, given the situation in Syria and the fact that the United States is supporting the rebel forces. The U.S. must have a plan to support a post-Assad Syria, and ensure that those charged with doing so are both manned and resourced to accomplish the task. The U.S. military is capable of winning the war. The State Department and others remain incapable of winning the peace.

Joseph Miller is the pen name for a ranking Department of Defense official with a background in U.S. special operations and combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has worked in strategic planning.