It was a mess when Ambassador Stevens was there, and was killed, but is it getting worse?:
‘As Westerners evacuate Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, Islamist militias—whose fighters apparently number in the thousands—are moving in.’
The destabilization of Libya post-Gadhafi has also added to the destabilization of Algeria, and Mali as well. Our policies and the assumptions behind them are not lining up well with conditions on the ground. This can help create the vacuum that invites the real radicals in.
What difference does it make? Well, quite a bit actually, for troop morale, for protecting our interests, pursuing our interests, and making and executing good policy with enough realism to not put ourselves in worse positions.
***Comments are very much worth a read.
Want to understand Islamism better and the forces in the region which will require much better policy out of us? Totten mentions checking out Sayyid Qutb. A must read.
‘Just two days before the 9/11 anniversary attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, two leaders of the Libyan militias responsible for keeping order in the city threatened to withdraw their men.’
Why is this important? There appears to be a large gap between what our President is saying, and some of what he is doing through policy. Here is a summation of what I posted at Althouse’s blog, and I think it’s worth repeating:
‘Admitting Al-Qaida is still active and gaining ground in Afpak is admitting the reasons we went there are still valid, and will require continued military presence. We are, in Bush’s words, in a war on terror. Admitting that this attack was perpetrated by Al-Qaida in Libya means we’re still in a war on terror. It’s global and ongoing.
Hence the drone strikes, the surge in Afghanistan, and the continuation of most of Bush’s policies, including all kinds of abridgement of liberties here at home.
Let’s talk about the War On Terror. Let’s talk about the drone strikes. Let’s talk about Al-Qaida. Let’s talk about where America is in this war, and what policies the President has put in place and what we’re actually doing about it.’
Libya was supposed to have been billed as a success for Obama. We toppled a tyrant in the name of freedom (albeit a different definition that Bush envisioned) but let the Libyans do it themselves. It cost much less than Iraq, tried to appeal to international institutions as we did work with Britain and France, and there was less risk involved. We now have kind of a client state in Libya, and there was genuine support to get Ansar Al Sharia out after Stevens was killed. In the administration’s defense, this was just the kind of flower he promised to grow with his vision.
So how does Obama’s foreign policy vision line up with the policies he’s kept in place from the Bush administration? Just what are the threats facing America? How are Obama’s liberal internationalist policies working out there in the real world?
I’d like to think I would do the same for any other President.
Any thoughts and comments are welcome.
Addition: After the VP debate, I came away with the following:
1. Ryan correctly pointed out that Obama’s policy in Syria is not peace through strength. We ended up hemming and hawing through the U.N. and ceding too much of our interests to Russia, Iran, and other bad actors, who do not share our interests and actively work against our interests (though it’s not clear what to be done in Syria). We’ve changed ideals guiding our foreign policy, and these are clearly some downsides which can always possibly cause more conflict in the future. I believe that if we don’t stand up for our interests, no one will, and our interests don’t necessarily align with European interests either (and we’ve had limited, but much appreciated, support from allies). We don’t necessarily need to guide our foreign policy with these ideals to be successful.
2. The reason we went to Afghanistan, and the reason we’re still there is not to avenge 9/11 (though there’s some truth to that), but to secure our national interest. There are groups of Islamic terrorists and sympathizers who will actively plan and carry out attacks against us, and they will hole up in this area. There’s more and more Al Qaida on the ground as we speak. As hopeless as it looks (Pakistan actively working against us and supporting terrorism, the COIN results, the seemingly impossible task of nation building, the ungovernable FATA region, the very untrustworthy Afghan Army, Karzai’s weakness, the fact that the Taliban can probably wait us out and the over 2,000 Americans who’ve sacrificed their lives for our safety), our objective has always been to prevent more attacks on our soil. A timeline and withdrawal may please the base at home, but may not meet this objective. I don’t think any sitting U.S. President can allow this to happen, hence the drone strikes, Obama’s surge, and the continued war on terror. We’re still at war.
Addition: Al Qaida is on the rise in Afghanistan, and our objective has not been met. Just ask Lara Logan from 60 minutes who’s been watching the war.
‘The United States military has secretly sent a task force of more than 150 planners and other specialists to Jordan to help the armed forces there handle a flood of Syrian refugees, prepare for the possibility that Syria will lose control of its chemical weapons and be positioned should the turmoil in Syria expand into a wider conflict.’
It’s still unfolding messily: a protracted civil conflict along sectarian lines with spillover. Turkey has been shelling inside Syria for over six days, and returning fire on its borders. There are many thousands dead and many cities heavily damaged inside Syria.
We likely have, or have had, special operations inside Syria assisting the rebel forces, but obviously there’s only so much we can do.
Why enter Libya and possibly end up with a client State, and not Syria? Why bet on the horses in one country and not another according to the current doctrine, relying instead on a particularly ineffective international process?