On Libya, Kasich is right, Rubio is wrong, and Trump is lying

During last night’s debate, Ted Cruz criticized Marco Rubio for supporting U.S. military intervention in Libya to topple the Qaddafi regime. Qaddafi’s demise has, of course, resulted in awful consequences, including, but certainly not limited to, the rise of ISIS in Libya

Rubio responded that he supported our intervention because it was foregone conclusion that Qaddafi would fall and he wanted the U.S. to facilitate a satisfactory post-Qaddafi future. Unfortunately, he added, President Obama chose to “lead from behind,” so the result was chaos.

But John Kasich countered that Qaddafi’s demise wasn’t preordained when we intervened. Rather, our intervention was instrumental in toppling his regime.

Who is right? I believe Kasich is.

I base this view on an article in Foreign Affairs by Alan Kuperman, an associate professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin. I wrote about that article here.

Kuperman makes a persuasive case that prior to our intervention, the Libyan civil war was virtually over. The rebels had been defeated. Their last stronghold, Benghazi, was about to fall.

(Indeed, the Obama administration’s major rationale for intervening was to prevent a “bloodbath,” particularly in Benghazi when it fell to Qaddafi. However, Kuperman argues that there was little reason to fear a bloodbath; there had been relatively few civilian deaths in other towns retaken by the dictator.)

So Rubio is wrong about the situation in Libya when he voted. He may be telling the truth about why he voted as he did, but if so, his vote was based on an erroneous premise.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, flatly lied during the debate about his pre-intervention position on Libya. There are no “ifs” about it.

Trump denied having ever supported the Obama administration’s efforts to remove Qaddafi from power. Ted Cruz gave him a chance to back away from his claim, but Trump insisted upon it.

As Breitbart points out, however, the record shows that Trump did, in fact, support the U.S. efforts against Qaddifi. The Cruz campaign, as their candidate promised to do, has found (via BuzzFeed) videotape that unambiguously establishes Trump’s support for intervening in Libya.

In the video, from February of 2011, Trump says that the U.S. should go into Libya “on a humanitarian basis” and “knock this guy out very quickly, very surgically, very effectively and save the lives.” Here is Trump’s fuller statement:

I can’t believe what our country is doing. Gadhafi, in Libya, is killing thousands of people. Nobody knows how bad it is and we’re sitting around. We have soliders all over the Middle East and we’re not bringing them in to stop this horrible carnage. And that’s what it is, a carnage. …

Now we should go in. We should stop this guy which would be very easy and very quick. We could do it surgically, stop him from doing it and save these lives.

This is absolute nuts. We don’t want to get involved and you’re going to end up with something like you’ve never seen before.

Now, ultimately the people will appreciate it and they’re going to end up taking over the country eventually. But the people will appreciate it and they should pay us back. But we have to go in to save these lives. These people are being slaughtered like animals. … We should do it on a humanitarian basis. Immediately go into Libya, knock this guy out very quickly, very surgically, very effectively and save the lives.

Donald Trump seems incapable of telling the truth when doing so shows him to be fallible. His lies will probably catch up with him before this election year is over.

Unfortunately, it looks increasingly like this won’t happen until the general election — in other words, too late for the Republicans to nominate a conservative (and a decent human being), but in time for Hillary Clinton to carry the day.