Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton made it through all three presidential debates without ever addressing her role in the 2011 U.S. intervention in Libya.
The closest Clinton came to addressing her role in the Libyan intervention was after criticism of Libya’s failed state by Republican nominee Donald Trump in the first debate.
“He actually advocated for the actions we took in Libya and urged that Gadhafi be taken out, after actually doing some business with him one time,” Clinton responded at the time.
“I think President Obama made the right decision at the time,” Clinton said, defending the intervention at the first Democratic primary debate in October 2015. Even President Barack Obama has expressed extreme regret for his decision to intervene in Libya in 2011, telling Jeffery Goldberg of The Atlantic, “It didn’t work,” and that “Libya is a mess.”
Clinton was a strong advocate of military force against Libya in 2011. Sidney Blumenthal, a trusted Clinton confidant, emailed Clinton in 2011 counseling her: “this is an historic moment and you will be credited for realizing it.”
A New York Times report from February 2016 examining the U.S. decision-making process in Libya revealed that Clinton was the key to Obama’s decision to intervene. “I’ve always thought that Hillary’s support for the broader mission in Libya put the president on the 51 side of the line for a more aggressive approach,” then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates confirmed.
Clinton reportedly sold the policy to Obama by emphasizing the competence of dissident Libyan leaders in waiting, believing they could set up a transitional government capable of quickly reestablishing rule of law. Clinton’s support convinced Obama to approve a policy of regime change.
Libya today is a failed state, with the largest ISIS affiliate outside of Iraq and Syria. The former Libyan army’s weapons have proliferated across the globe, fueling conflicts in countries like Mali, Iraq, Syria and Egypt.
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