Defining President Obama’s legacy isn’t hard. All you need to do is define the world’s situation before and after his presidency. One of the best examples is what used to be the nation of Libya, which Obama has reportedly called a “sh*t show.”
Before Obama’s military intervention, Libya was governed by Muammar Qaddafi, a dedicated terrorist. Ronald Reagan ordered a night attack by U.S. Air Force F-111s that nearly killed Qaddafi in response to a Berlin nightclub attack in 1986, but that didn’t stop Qaddafi. Qaddafi ordered the bombing of a U.S. airliner over Scotland in 1988 that killed 270.
Qaddafi was vulnerable and he was smart enough to know it. After President George W. Bush’s Proliferation Security Initiative led to the interception by U.S. and British forces of two ships in an Italian port carrying nuclear materials to Libya, and fearing the same fate as Saddam Hussein, Qaddafi surrendered his nuclear weapons development program.
All was relatively quiet in Libya. Qaddafi posed no danger to U.S. national security after that. And then came President Obama’s military intervention in Libya at the behest of France and other NATO allies that overthrew Qaddafi and led to his death in 2011.
The reason for the military action, Obama then claimed, was the danger of a humanitarian catastrophe caused by Qaddafi’s forces attacking civilians. The real reason was that France’s access to Libyan sweet crude was blocked by Qaddafi. Neither France nor England had the ability to undertake the airstrikes necessary to overthrow Qaddafi’s government, so U.S. forces were necessary despite the fact that no U.S. national security interest was at stake.
Obama, saying that U.S. military intervention was “necessary, unique and limited,” added that there was a “moral imperative” to prevent Qaddafi from massacring his own people. His redefinition of our national security interests to suit his actions was central to his case: “If we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world. It was not in our national interest to let that happen,” Obama said. “I refused to let that happen.”
With Qaddafi gone, there was no Libyan government. The vacuum was filled, quickly, by terrorist groups seeking control over what had been a nation.
Since then, Libya has devolved into warring terrorist factions. It has two rival “governments” claiming to rule it. In fact, Libya is now a safe haven for terrorist networks including ISIS, which is probably the fastest-growing and most dangerous to U.S. national security. ISIS controls significant parts of that nation.
On September 10, 2012, one day before the terrorist attacks in Benghazi left four Americans dead, there were at least ten terrorist groups that had active operational terror cells within Benghazi’s city limits, according to a report on the attacks published by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
A little more than two weeks ago, the assessment of our top commander in Africa, Gen. Don Bolduc, was that the spread of ISIS across Libya was so strong that further U.S. military involvement would be essential even if there were to be an agreement between the two rival factions claiming to govern Libya (though neither does).
Obama, of course, denies any responsibility for the massive policy failure after he chose to intervene militarily in behalf of the rebels seeking Qaddafi’s overthrow. This past week he blamed what he called the Libya “sh*t show” on our NATO allies, particularly British PM David Cameron, who he said was distracted and didn’t keep an eye on Libya.
It’s almost fair to blame our allies for sucking us into an unnecessary war, but that’s not what Obama did. Obama blamed Cameron for the aftermath as if Cameron, not Obama, had any responsibility for the current state of Libya.
ISIS, we must remember, is a product of the Syrian civil war that began in 2011. It now dominates large parts of Iraq, Syria, and Libya. We can’t blame Obama for not intervening in the Syrian civil war because there were no good guys in the fight, and there still aren’t. There wasn’t then, and isn’t now, anyone with whom we should ally ourselves. Russia and Iran now dominate the field to protect Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite (a sect of Shiite Islam) terrorist regime. But Obama should be blamed for turning Libya into ISIS’s — and other terrorist networks’ — safe haven.
We have to remember the massive cover-up that Obama and Clinton led after the Benghazi attacks. In the hours of the attack and for days after, the Obama administration was peddling its talking points which claimed that there was no organized terrorist attack, that the “demonstrations” which preceded the attacks in Benghazi were the result of an obscure anti-Muslim video.
We also must remember that those talking points — which were the foundation for National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s infamous lies on five Sunday political talk shows right after the attacks — were tightly controlled by the White House. In an email before Rice’s appearances, deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes (brother of CBS News president David Rhodes) wrote, the goals were: “To convey that the United States is doing everything that we can to protect our people and facilities abroad; To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy; To show that we will be resolute in bringing people who harm Americans to justice, and standing steadfast through these protests; To reinforce the President and Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.”
But the attacks were, obviously, the result of a broad policy failure. If we had not intervened to overthrow Qaddafi, the attacks would never have happened. If Obama hadn’t chosen to redefine our national security interests incorrectly to fit his actions, no Americans would have been in Benghazi.
If Hillary Clinton’s State Department had paid any attention to the CIA and its own intelligence, it would have known that the ten terrorist cells were active and operational within Benghazi before the attacks and Clinton would have either withdrawn Americans from Benghazi or acted on the many requests for reinforced security at the diplomatic compound and the CIA annex.
Obama’s legacy in the Middle East is plain for all to see and for history to record. He didn’t create ISIS but his actions directly led to the chaos in Libya that enables it to grow and prosper. ISIS’s strength and prosperity has already led to the San Bernardino terrorist attack by ISIS adherents, and will lead to more attacks of unknown severity within the U.S.
It’s not just David Cameron who took his eye off Libya, Syria, Iran, and the rest of the Middle East. Obama’s duty, which his most valued foreign policy tenets characteristically overlook, is to protect and defend American national security wherever and whenever it is threatened.
Both Obama and Hillary Clinton left Americans behind to face the Benghazi attacks alone at the cost of four lives. As a friend of mine told me last weekend, every father, mother, sister, and brother of anyone serving in our military should remember that if she’s elected president, Hillary Clinton will abandon our people to the same fate whenever it’s convenient to her politically, just like she and Obama did in Benghazi.
Libya is indeed, as Obama reportedly said, a “sh*t show.” That would be the proper appellation for Obama’s legacy in the Middle East.
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