Hillary Clinton and the decision to intervene in Libya

Hillary Clinton has been working full-time to control the story of her time as Secretary of State. That was the point of her clunky, largely unread book, and the point of her awkward, gaffe-laden book tour.

Clinton argues (plausibly) that she wanted a more activist approach to Syria than that served up by her boss. She argues (implausibly) that she wasn’t really sold on the “reset” with Russia.

As to Libya, Clinton’s priority must be to duck, to the extent possible, the political fallout from the killing of our ambassador and three other Americans by terrorists in Benghazi.

But what about the larger policy that led to Benghazi — our decision to engage militarily on behalf of the rebels in Libya? Juxtaposed not only with the Benghazi killings but also our embarrassing evacuation and abandonment of the United States Embassy in Tripoli, that decision raises key questions for Clinton.

The main questions are: (1) where did she stand on the question of intervening in Libya’s civil war and (2) what was her larger strategic vision for Libya.

Joseph Miller — the pen name for a high ranking Defense Department official — provides answers. According to Miller, writing in the Daily Caller, Clinton led the charge to intervene in Libya, but lacked any strategic plan beyond making sure that no bloodbath occurred for which she could be blamed.

As to the decision to intervene, Miller writes:

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. . . .

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.

Intervening in Libya might have been a defensible course of action if the U.S. had a sound plan for what would happen after the rebels succeeded. Having pushed for intervention, Clinton had a duty to formulate such a plan. According to Miller, she presented none:

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 [incredible] because both Obama and Clinton had the hindsight of the failures of Iraq. . . .

Why did Clinton insist on intervening, yet fail to offer a follow-up plan? Miller explains:

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.

This is speculation, of course. But it’s difficult to discern a better explanation.

Clinton’s gambit would have worked for her politically had it not been for the Benghazi attacks. I can’t think of a clearer case of chickens coming home to roost.

Tweeting Jake Tapper

We think more highly of Jake Tapper than we do of the standard cable talking head, and I follow him on Twitter, but his take on the current Hamas-Israel conflict demonstrates his limitations in a big way. Yesterday he tweeted out a sympathetic Hamas propaganda point: “More Palestinian children killed in last 3 wks than Israeli troops killed in military ops since 2006.”

Maybe, but it’s a point that reflects Hamas’s criminal use of human shields as a means of war. It is therefore moronic. Even discounting Hamas’s use of human shields, however, Hamas’s civilian death statistics should not be taken at face value. They are a carefully nurtured tool of war.

Citing Bret Stephens’s Wall Street Journal column addressing this issue (“Palestine makes you dumb,” behind the Journal’s annoying subscription paywall), I tried to make this point in my own way and Tapper responded: “[W]e report UN figures. Are Israeli casualty figures propaganda?” Stephens takes up this point, but Tapper apparently ain’t got time to read. It is that response to which I replied: “You know the answer to that question. That is pathetic.”

The exchange partially appears below. I believe it is fully accessible here.

In truth, I believe that official Israeli spokesmen including those working on behalf of the IDF have proved themselves a more reliable source of news and information regarding this conflict than CNN.

Ms. Hillary’s pinpoint strikes

In an interview with Jorge Ramos Fusion TV, Ms. Hillary was asked about civilian deaths in Gaza. Hamas treats civilian death statistics as propaganda and carefully nurtures them. They are treated as gospel and routinely recited by the media without reservation.

Bret Stephens took up the issue in an important Wall Street Journal column yesterday, addressing the officials and policymakers who use the statistics to criticize Israel or promote a ceasefire or the like. Stephens’s column is “Palestine makes you dumb” (behind the Journal’s annoying subscription paywall but accessible via Google).

In the video below, Ms. Hillary touches all the bases in her response.

Hamas intended to provoke Israel. That’s why they started firing the rockets again. Good explanation!

Ms. Hillary takes credit for having engineered the previous Hamas-Israel ceasefire that lasted….until now, when it didn’t.

An accomplishment, at last! Ms. Hillary engineered a ceasefire that lasted until a time of Hamas’s choosing.

Hamas “had its back against the wall, and then started firing missiles.”

Israel has the right to defend itself, obviously.

Israel discovered the tunnel networks. Civilian deaths are heartbreaking. Hamas embeds its men and materiel in civilian areas. Israel sends warnings. Conflicts will produce civilian casualties, so we need a ceasefire as soon as possible.

I would say that Israel therefore needs to crush Hamas as soon as possible, but that is one base Hillary won’t touch.

And she ain’t a military planner, but part of it is that Gaza is “a pretty small place,” so…you know….Gaza puts its leadership in civilian areas. (Left unsaid: Like the basement of Al Shifa Hospital.)

Hillary Matters For America is on the case and emails this quote, for the exculpatory “context.” Ms. Hillary speaks:

I’m not a military planner, but Hamas puts its missiles — its rockets in civilian areas. Part of it is that Gaza’s pretty small and it’s very densely populated. They put their command and control of Hamas military leaders in those civilian areas. Israel, I know, has sent warnings and tried to get people to move, but in any kind of conflict there are going to be civilian casualties, and we need to try to get to a cease-fire as soon as possible.

Video via Washington Free Beacon.

The Great War and Modern Memory

Fussell Cover copyYesterday was the 100th anniversary of Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war on Serbia—the official beginning of hostilities of what became World War I.  There’s a ton of new books about the Great War (as it was called before the sequel caused a re-numbering), but in many ways my favorite remains Paul Fussell’s treatment of the literary legacy of the war from the 1970s, The Great War and Modern Memory.

A few excerpts from the early, scene-setting parts of the book:

Irony is the attendant of hope, and the fuel of hope is innocence.  One reason the Great War was more ironic than any other is that its beginning was more innocent.  “Never again such innocence,” observes Philip Larkin, who has found himself curiously drawn to regard with a wondering tenderness not merely the victimized creatures of the nearby Second World War but the innocents of the remote Great War, those sweet, generous people who pressed forward and all but solicited their own destruction. . .

The certainties were intact.  Britain had not known a major war for a century, and on the Continent, as A.J. P. Taylor points out, “there had been no war between the Great Powers since 1871.  No man in the prime of life knew what war was like.  All imagined that it would be an affair of great marches and great battles, quickly decided.”

Furthermore, the Great War was perhaps the last to be conceived as taking place within a seamless, purposeful “history” involving a coherent stream of time running from past through present to future. . .

For the modern imagination that last summer has assumed the status of a permanent symbol for anything innocently but irrecoverably lost. . .

Out of the world of summer, 1914, marched a unique generation.  It believed in Progress and Art and in no way doubted the benignity of technology.  The word machine was not yet invariably coupled with the word gun.

More as we go, perhaps, through the centennials of all the Great War’s milestones.

See my previous post about Churchill’s account of that last summer here.

And see my obituary notice of Paul Fussell from 2012 here.

To Finish Off the Evening, the World’s Best Three-Year-Old Drummer

I have written nothing today, having spent my *free* time lining up guests and otherwise preparing to host the Laura Ingraham radio show tomorrow and Thursday. (To listen online between 9 and 12 Eastern, go here.) So, just to brighten your day, this is something I came across while searching for something more serious: the world’s best three-year-old drummer, Lyonya Shilovsky, a Russian, performing with the Novosibirsk Symphony Orchestra. It is quite entertaining:

Next I want to see him play Wipeout.

Pelosi parrots Qatar’s description of Hamas as “humanitarian”

Nancy Pelosi says that the United States must look to Qatar for advice in resolving the war between Hamas and Israel. And the beginning of the wisdom Qatar has imparted to Pelosi “over and over again” is that “Hamas is a humanitarian organization.”

Qatar, of course, is the main ally and financial backer of Hamas. Indeed, Hamas’ leader, Khaled Meshaal, operates from Qatar.

For that matter, Qatar is believed to have helped fund ISIS and it certainly supports the Muslim Brotherhood. The Obama State Department has labeled Qatar’s support for terrorism since 9/11 “significant.”

Should we be surprised that Pelosi believes the U.S. must seek guidance from Qatar when it comes to Israel’s conflict with humanitarian Hamas? Not really. Pelosi also thought that the U.S. should develop close relations with Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian butcher. “The road to Damascus is a road to peace,” Pelosi idiotically declared in 2007.

Pelosi is just a knee-jerk San Francisco leftist who lacks the sense she was born with. The real question is whether Team Obama views Hamas and Qatar (and the rest of the world) through the same “see no evil” prism as Pelosi.

The answer, distressingly, is yes. In fact, John Kerry operated just as Pelosi said he should — meeting with the Qataris and the Turks and reportedly presenting Israel with essentially the ceasefire agreement peddled by these friends of Hamas.

Again, we should not be surprised. Who was Nancy Pelosi’s partner in appeasing Assad? Why, it was John Kerry — and eventually President Obama.

In 2010, Kerry proclaimed himself “absolutely convinced” that, with carefully calibrated American diplomacy, Syria “will play a very important role in achieving a comprehensive peace in the [Middle East].”

Now, he apparently wants to assign this peacemaking role to the emir of Qatar.

What is it about so much of the American left that makes it a sucker for authoritarian anti-American regimes? Is it admiration for the power these governments wield over their people? Is it the anti-Americanism itself? Or is it just a desire to wish away foreign policy problems and get on with the pressing matter of expanding the reach of government here at home?

Whatever the answer, I’ll give leftists this much: their tilt towards authoritarians like Hamas is more coherent on its face than that of libertarians.

Media Alert [Updated][Updated Again: How to Listen Online]

I will be guest hosting the Laura Ingraham radio show both tomorrow and Thursday. The show airs from 9:00 a.m.-noon Eastern time. I am expecting a good lineup of guests for the two shows, including Jeff Sessions, John Thune, Marco Rubio, Steve Hayward, Stephen Hunter and Katie Kieffer. Please tune in if you can!

UPDATE: I have also added Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, to the lineup.

MORE: Laura’s show is not on the radio everywhere–for example, here in the Twin Cities. And listening online is behind a pay wall on her web site. But my enterprising wife came up with this in a comment, below:

I use TuneIn to listen to Laura’s show when I’m on my laptop by going here.

That’s a Fresno station (http://www.my1680.com) where the program is on from 6 to 9 am Pacific time (8 to 11 am Central time). TuneIn also has an app that I use on my phone.

So, unless I am missing something, that is a place where anyone can go to hear the shows tomorrow and Thursday.