Most Americans want to know what happened in the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. It is not a frivolous preoccupation. Four brave Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were murdered by the attackers. But it’s also important for Americans to ponder attentively what is happening in Libya right now. It underscores what the Washington Examiner's Timothy P. Carney has described as the true scandal of Benghazi: Obama tried to fight a “clean war” that would require no follow-up, and instead helped create a failed state and a host of new related problems.
With world and media attention focused on Gaza, Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine, Libya is now collapsing – and it's hardly a surprise. It has gone through four prime ministers since the revolution against former dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and is now on its fifth, Ahmed Maiteg.
|Obama tried to fight a 'clean war' that would require no follow-up, and instead helped create a failed state and a host of new related problems.|
His selection was postponed when gunmen stormed the parliament – which is apparently a routine occurrence in Tripoli. The new PM has already survived one assassination attempt. So did his immediate predecessor, who was motivated by the incident to quit after about two months on the job. And his predecessor, who had earlier survived a kidnapping, was dismissed in March and fled to Europe.
Libya has become a regional arms-smuggling center. Terrorist groups and rival militias are using heavy artillery against each other and the government. Last week, U.S. and other western diplomats abandoned their embassies. A major fuel depot south of Tripoli is ablaze amid a pitched battle between two rival militias. Reuters reports that 75 fighters, mostly soldiers in the army, were killed in Benghazi when their base was overrun by Islamist militias.
The famous adage of former Secretary of State Colin Powell comes to mind — the one since referred to as the Pottery Barn Rule: “You break it, you buy it.” Powell's point to President George W. Bush in 2003 was that any U.S. invasion of Iraq would bring with it an obligation to rebuild the country. The years of painstaking U.S. involvement in post-war Iraq have obviously not come to a graceful conclusion, but one could at least argue that they gave Iraqis a fighting chance at having a stable country – which they quickly squandered.
Not so in Libya, where no one seems to have thought through the consequences of “kinetic military action” – least of all the man who initiated it. Not coincidentally, the decision to help the militias now running wild in Libya was never presented for deliberation by the first branch, the U.S. Congress. It was taken by one man in the Oval Office, who seems to have assumed that anything he touched would turn to gold.
Multiple polls now suggest that Americans of every political stripe have had it with lengthy military occupations of foreign countries. That’s understandable, but as long as U.S. presidents unilaterally traipse around the world without prior legislative authorization, odds are there will be more such occupations. Be careful what you buy.