Refusing to Learn Lessons from Libya

Exclusive: Official Washington never likes to admit a mistake no matter how grave or obvious. Too many Important People would look bad. So, the rationalizations never stop as with the Libyan fiasco, observes James W. Carden.

By James W. Carden

In recent weeks, the Washington Post’s Cairo bureau chief Sudarsan Raghavan has published a series of remarkable dispatches from war-torn Libya, which is still reeling from the aftermath of NATO’s March 2011 intervention and the subsequent overthrow and murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Marines carry the flag draped caskets of four U.S. diplomatic personnel who were killed in a Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The transfer ceremony was carried out at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Sept. 14. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On July 2, Raghavan reported on what amounts to Libya’s modern-day slave trade. According to his report, Libya is “now home to a thriving trade in humans. Unable to pay exorbitant smuggling fees or swindled by traffickers, some of the world’s most desperate people are being held as slaves, tortured or forced into prostitution.”

The numbers help tell the tale. “The number of migrants departing from Libya is surging,” writes Raghavan, “with more than 70,000 arriving in Italy so far this year, a 28 percent increase over the same period last year.”

On August 1, Raghavan returned to the pages of the Post with a disturbing portrait of life in Tripoli, reporting that: “Six years after the revolution that toppled dictator Moammar Gaddafi, the mood in this volatile capital is a meld of hopelessness and gloom. Diplomatic and military efforts by the United States and its allies have failed to stabilize the nation; the denouement of the crisis remains far from clear. Most Libyans sense that the worst is yet to come.”

Raghavan notes that “Under Gaddafi, the oil-producing country was once one of the world’s wealthiest nations.” Under his rule, “Libyans enjoyed free health care, education and other benefits under the eccentric strongman’s brand of socialism.” It would be difficult not to see, Raghavan writes, “the insecurity that followed Gaddafi’s death has ripped apart the North African country.”

Taken together, Raghavan’s reports should come as a rude shock to stalwart supporters of NATO’s intervention in Libya. Yet the embarrassing fervor with which many embraced the intervention remains largely undiminished – with, as we will see, one notable exception.

An Upside-Down Meritocracy

Anne Marie Slaughter, who served as policy planning chief at the State Department under Hillary Clinton, emailed her former boss after the start of the NATO operation, to say: “I cannot imagine how exhausted you must be after this week, but I have never been prouder of having worked for you.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before Congress on Jan. 23, 2013, about the fatal attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11. 2012. (Photo from C-SPAN coverage)

Five months after the start of NATO operation against Gaddafi, Slaughter went public with her approval in an op-ed for the Financial Times titled “Why Libya Skeptics Were Proved Badly Wrong.” Proving, if nothing else, that the foreign policy establishment is a reverse meritocracy, Slaughter holds an endowed chair at Princeton and is also the well-compensated president of the influential Washington think tank New America.

President Obama’s decision to intervene received wide bipartisan support in the Congress and from media figures across the political spectrum, including Bill O’Reilly and Cenk Uyghur.

Yet the casus belli used to justify the intervention, as a U.K. parliamentary report made clear last September, was based on a lie: that the people of the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi were in imminent danger of being slaughtered by Gaddafi’s forces.

The report, issued by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, states that “Despite his rhetoric, the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence.”

The report also noted that while “Many Western policymakers genuinely believed that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered his troops to massacre civilians in Benghazi … this did not necessarily translate into a threat to everyone in Benghazi. In short, the scale of the threat to civilians was presented with unjustified certainty. US intelligence officials reportedly described the intervention as ‘an intelligence-light decision.’”

Even as it became clear that the revolution had proved to be a disaster for the country, the arbiters of acceptable opinion in Washington continued to insist that NATO’s intervention was not only a success, but the right thing to do. It is a myth that has gained wide purchase among D.C.’s foreign policy cognoscenti, despite the judgment of former President Barack Obama, who famously described the intervention as “a shit show.”

Still Spinning

A full year after the commencement of NATO’s campaign against Gaddafi, former NATO Ambassador Ivo Daalder and NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stravidis took to the pages of that reliable bellwether of establishment opinion, Foreign Affairs, to declare that “NATO’s operation in Libya has rightly been hailed as a model intervention.”

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shortly before he was killed on Oct. 20, 2011, in Sirte, Libya.

According to Daalder and Stravidis, “the alliance responded rapidly to a deteriorating situation that threatened hundreds of thousands of civilians rebelling against an oppressive regime.”

In 2016, a Clinton campaign press release justifying the ill-starred intervention, claimed “Qadhafi and his regime made perfectly clear what their plans were for dealing with those who stood up against his reign, using disgusting language in urging his backers to cleanse the country of these rebels. This was a humanitarian crisis.”

Astonishingly, the campaign “Factsheet” goes on to assert that, “there was no doubt that further atrocities were on the way, as Qadhafi’s forces storming towards the county’s second biggest city.” Yet there is, as both the U.K. parliamentary report and a Harvard study by Alan J. Kuperman found, no evidence for this whatsoever.

“Qaddafi did not perpetrate a ‘bloodbath’ in any of the cities that his forces recaptured from rebels prior to NATO intervention — including Ajdabiya, Bani Walid, Brega, Ras Lanuf, Zawiya, and much of Misurata — so there was,” writes Kuperman, “virtually no risk of such an outcome if he had been permitted to recapture the last rebel stronghold of Benghazi.”

Nevertheless, the myth persists. Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Shadi Hamid, the author of Islamic Exceptionalismcontinues to insist, against all evidence, that the intervention was a success.

“The Libya intervention was successful,” says Hamid, “The country is better off today than it would have been had the international community allowed dictator Muammar Qaddafi to continue his rampage across the country.”

In this, Hamid is hardly alone. Left-activists in thrall to a Trotskyite vision of permanent revolution also continue to make the case that NATO’s intervention was a net positive for the country.

In a recent interview with In These Times, Leila Al-Shami claimed that “If Gaddafi had not fallen, Libya now would look very much like Syria. In reality, the situation in Libya is a million times better. Syrian refugees are fleeing to Libya. Far fewer people have been killed in Libya since Gaddafi’s falling than in Syria. Gaddafi being ousted was a success for the Libyan people.”

That danger in all this is that by refusing to learn the lessons of Libya (and Kosovo and Iraq and Syria) the U.S. foreign policy establishment will likely continue to find itself backing forces that seek to turn the greater Middle East into a fundamentalist Sunnistan, ruled by Sharia law, utterly hostile to religious pluralism, the rights of women, minorities and, naturally, U.S. national security interests in the region.

[For more on this topic, see’s “Hillary Clinton’s Failed Libya ‘Doctrine.’”]

James W. Carden served as an adviser on Russia policy at the US State Department. Currently a contributing writer at The Nation magazine, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Quartz, The American Conservative and The National Interest.

55 comments for “Refusing to Learn Lessons from Libya

  1. Mike Myshkin
    August 23, 2017 at 08:34

    Americans may have learned nothing from Libya but Kim Jong Un has drawn the conclusion that he will face the same fate asQaddafi if he ever gives up his nuclear program, as the Libyan dictator did.

  2. August 20, 2017 at 22:36

    I am certain that the blood sucking rats at the Pentagon BritishEmpire/N.A.T.O. heroine mafia learned plenty of lessons about how to rape and murder from their rape and murder of Libya.

  3. Mark Thomason
    August 20, 2017 at 14:07

    This type of slavery, for sale of people and temporary labor rather than the North American style, was a feature of North Africa and specifically Libya for hundreds of years until fairly recently. It was part of the cause of America’s Barbary Wars, since they were taking American seamen as slaves from American merchant shipping they also took. They also raided the European coast for slaves, going as far as Ireland, but with special focus on Italy and Spain.

    The outbreak of such slavery ought not to be taken as a “surprise.” It is “of course.”

  4. Anonymous
    August 19, 2017 at 14:20

    This is overall a great piece on the failure of the D.C. foreign policy establishment to learn from its mistakes in Libya. However, Carden should be careful when making sweeping assertions about “Trotskyites in thrall to a theory of permanent revolution”. The International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), the successor organization to Trotsky’s Fourth International, views the Libyan fiasco as an imperialist war for regime change. Those who advocated on behalf of intervention, particularly members of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), are seen by the ICFI (and others on the socialist left) as integral pseudo-left members of the political establishment.

    • Anonymous
      August 19, 2017 at 17:35

      His exact wording is “Left-activists in thrall to a Trotskyite vision of permanent revolution,” but my point stands.

  5. Lawrence Fitton
    August 19, 2017 at 14:12

    everybody knows libya was invaded on lies. the people who were for the intervention are now lying to protect their sordid reputations. those people know the invasion was & is a disaster.
    then there’s this: libya did not attack us, nor did libya threaten to. it was just another in a long line of illegal wars. if the nueremburg principles were applied obama would be hanged. in fact every president since ww ll would have been.

  6. hillary
    August 19, 2017 at 12:33

    ” We wasted our money and ruined their lives for nothing.”
    NO !
    We wasted our money and ruined their lives for the successv of the the neocon Zionist plans for the Middle East.

  7. eric
    August 19, 2017 at 10:00

    It will be a long time before the people that were living under Gaddafi’s , Saddam , or even Assad’s rule have as good of chance of living in a peaceful stable country again . We wasted our money and ruined their lives for nothing

  8. August 19, 2017 at 02:15

    The only “lesson” “the U.S. foreign policy establishment” learns is that with the unwavering support of complicit media,of institutions such as Amnesty International, and of intellectuals such as Chomsky, ANY LIE can be sold as truth (from – ‘Gaddafi’s Viagra fueled rape camps’ to ‘imminent genocide if we don’t intervene,’ etc. It is self deluded to imagine those running this apparatus of power and mayhem concern themselves with “learning” anything. The destabilization and/or destruction of Middle Eastern and regional nations that don’t bow to the Washington has been open policy for years now. The “lesson” is that our military is quite capable of destroying small defenseless nations. To pretend that our “intention” is something more noble, and that our policy planners might “learn” something is to incorrectly label the Libyan disaster a “mistake” in the eyes of the empire. It clearly is not.

  9. exiled off mainstreet
    August 19, 2017 at 00:14

    While these truths are well-known to Consortiumnews readers, they should be clearly restated each time new facts come to light. It is too bad that received wisdom continues to cover up for these war crimes and the resulting blowback as noted again here.

  10. A..non
    August 18, 2017 at 19:53

    This was NOT a “fiasco.”
    The destabilization and tribalization of Libya (one of the most educated and rich Arab countries, as Iraq and Syria once were) and WAS a deliberate act.
    Global neocon envisaged that result.

    • hillary
      August 19, 2017 at 09:43

      This was NOT a “fiasco.”

      No indeed it was a success of the higest order for the neocons & their New American Century goal….( PNAC).
      Hillary Clinton has taken much pride in bringing it about…
      Following MSN propaganda lies NATO, US, UK, & Fench etc Air forces began bombing Libya & turned the most progressive and literate country in Africa into dust for their own sick and evil neocon plans.Libya, the country highest on the UN Human Development Index in Africa was bombed back to the Stone Age because Gaddafi was leading Africa away from the clutches of the West, dollar hegemony and the destructive attentions of the IMF and World Bank.

  11. gratification
    August 18, 2017 at 13:03

    The issue that neither the British Parliamentary report nor Kuperman address is why the Western media and Western intelligence chose, yet again, to believe the rebels. They surely ought to have learned the lessons of Iraq 1 (babies thrown out of incubators) and 2 (WMD), and of Kosovo, But no, yet again they apparently fell for it in Libya with the “Ghaddafi is targeting civilians” narrative – totally discredited by both the Parliamentary report and Kuperman. Since those who work for intelligence services are, presumably, not stupid, and at least a few of the people who write for the Western media have a few brain cells, one is led inexorably to the obvious conclusion that these narratives are framed to persuade a gullible and forgetful public of the necessity for intervention, while the real reasons are not exposed. Some of the possible reasons for France’s involvement are given above by John Wilson – the gold and the new African currency – but why did the UK and the US get involved? In the case of Libya, of course, Cameron is a declared Zionist and Ghaddafi might have been supplying the people defending Lebanon from further Israeli expansionism – Hezbollah – with weapons. Hillary, as almost any other US politician, has to worship at the altar of Zion.

  12. Realist
    August 18, 2017 at 03:07

    Considering where Libya was (fully socialized medicine, education, housing, etc) before the NATO-sponsored regime change and murder of its head of state and where it is now (total chaos, death, destruction, mass flight and slavery) one must wonder about the validity of the charges constantly leveled against Mr. Gaddaffi’s government by the Western alliance. Did he really bring down the Pan-Am flight over Scotland or was that just an attempt to discredit a highly successful independent socialist country? Of course, he did say some uncomplimentary things about Israel which probably fully justifies total devastation of his country… in the minds of Neocons everywhere.

    • john wilson
      August 18, 2017 at 05:41

      You are right about the flight over Scotland, Realist, obviously nothing whatever to do with Gadaffi and many of the victims believe this as well. The Scottish judges who tried the case were terrified not to find both men innocent (which they obviously were) and enrage the Americans, so they found one man guilty and the other innocent so as to give their absurd verdict some kind of credence. As to Gadaffi saying unkind things about Israel so that’s partly why his country was destroyed, some of us posters on here have been anything but complimentary to Israel, so we are probably due for the chop any time soon! LOL.

      • Antonia
        August 18, 2017 at 14:40

        Libya’s anti Israel sentiments existed before Gadaffi.

    • Susan Sunflower
      August 18, 2017 at 05:57

      Adam Curtis’ Hypernormalization makes the case that it was Syria not Libya and — rather like Bin Laden — Gadhafi simply accepted that he had been convicted in the court of international opinion and stopped denying anytning. His ambitions wrt a pan African alliance/union required not being a pariah state so he very publically “gave up” WMD (that he may not have actually every had) in order to be welcomed back to the league of respectable and cooperative nations. That latter part making his being targeted for regime change (using Arab Spring Libyan civil strife) as pretext. Whether that strife was entirely “native Libyan” is unclear.

  13. Susan Sunflower
    August 17, 2017 at 23:40

    Most Americans have no idea how badly the Bosnian war went (1992-1995) … which is significant since it’s been used as the template …. the American version ends when we declared victory and went home — mission accomplished — and left the NATO and the UN to clean up as “best they could” which wasn’t tidy or particularly satisfactory for many involved, even now in 2017. Begun in 1992, the last “stabilization force” peacekeepers departed in 2004 … and we saw Bosnians attempting to flee undercover of the migrant crisis …

    Der Spiegel 2015: What Is Driving the Balkan Exodus?
    More than a third of all asylum-seekers arriving in Germany come from Albania, Kosovo and Serbia. Young, poor and disillusioned with their home countries, they are searching for a better future. But almost none of them will be allowed to stay.

    yeah, Faulkner again comes to mind … and the millions of pre-existing refugees and “migrants'”, most definitely NOT Syrians, who got lumped into the “migrant crisis” to be blamed on Assad and the “nonintervention by western powers” — R2P

    The only good thing to come out of the Libyan travesty was how badly it tarnished the notion of R2P and the reputation of all involved …

  14. jfl
    August 17, 2017 at 18:51

    death, devastaion, destruction, and deceit have been the chief us/eu exports since the rise of the american neocons in 2000 … the third reich lasted for 9 years, the neocon new american century has lasted 17, so far.

    Raghavan notes that “Under Gaddafi, the oil-producing country was once one of the world’s wealthiest nations.” Under his rule, “Libyans enjoyed free health care, education and other benefits under the eccentric strongman’s brand of socialism.” …

    that was the problem bush/hillary/obama and the neocons ‘fixed’ …

    … It would be difficult not to see, Raghavan writes, “the insecurity that followed Gaddafi’s death has ripped apart the North African country.”

    not only in libya but in afghanistan, iraq, ukraine, yemen … and they have their eyes on north korea and iran, russia and china … only the cartoon characters in the white house and congress ‘stand in their way’ … and they don’t, actually, stand in their way.

    “War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

    robert jackson said that at nuremberg, of the nazis, but it is just as true of our neocons in washington dc. jackson also said of the proceedings at nuremberg …

    We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.

    … and he was right again. the government of the usa has walked in the footsteps of the third reich since the turn of the millennium and the beginning of the neocon new american century.

    and all of us, citizens of the usa … that ‘beacon of democracy’, now spreading death, devastation, and destruction as our sole remaing export … will live in the shadow of our governent’s crimes, and our own inability to have done what it takes to end them, for decades to come, just as the germans have.

  15. D5-5
    August 17, 2017 at 18:36

    I’m reading an Independent’s account of the remark “shit-show” by Obama from March, 2016, and get a different impression from this report. Here the remark seems sane as though it applies to the attack itself, but in the Independent article it applies mostly to the aftermath of the attack, not the attack itself, which Obama praises. He was disappointed, he says, by the failure of Cameron and the EU in allowing Libya to spiral out of control, and specifically that Cameron of the UK at that time “had become distracted.” This is the context of the “shit-show” comment, as I understand it at this time. Obama also said that Cameron’s failure to act here was a reason he held back on attacking Syria in 2014 over the alleged chemical incident of that time, which as we now know, was another false flag. This suggests he wasn’t holding back on Syria due to Putin’s suggestion to help rid Syria of chemical weapons, or to skeptical responses to that time’s blame on Assad.

    Article title: “Barack Obama says David Cameron allowed Libya to become sh*** show” March 10, 2016.

    • D5-5
      August 18, 2017 at 10:34

      Stretching Carden’s article to off-topic somewhat, Seymour Hersh in his article in 2015 The Red Line and The Rat Lane covers the CIA transfer of weaponry out of Libya to the “moderates,” and is convincing on the chemical attack laid to Assad with Obama’s “red line.” Hersh’s commentary adds to Robert Parry’s fine work at that time on exposing the fraudulent shift to Assad. Hersh lays much of the problem to Erdogan:

      “We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdogan’s people to push Obama over the red line,” the former intelligence official said. “They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors”–who arrived in Damascus on August 18–“were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey–that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.”

      And: “Principal evidence came from the Turkish post-attack joy and back-slapping in numerous intercepts. Operations are always so super-secret in the planning but then it all flies out the window when it comes to crowing afterwards. There is no greater vulnerability than in the perpetrators claiming credit for success. Erdogan’s problems in Syria would soon be over: Off goes the gas and Obama will say red line and America is going to attack Syria, or at least that was the idea. But it did not work out that way.”

      This analysis is also available in Hersh’s book The Killing of Osama Bin Laden, 2016.

      • Susan Sunflower
        August 18, 2017 at 12:44

        I just discovered a book that received almost no attention in the USA although the Guardian reviewed it here

        The Exile by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy review – Osama Bin Laden after 9/11
        The investigative reporters have produced a revelatory work about al-Qaida members in hiding in Pakistan and Iran between 2001 and 2011

        (Americans insist on believing Bin Laden was the “mastermind”, despite his being stranded by the attacks in the Afghan hinterlands, apparently months and months after the basic sketch of what became the operation had been greenlighted)

        from Amazon blurb

        From September 11, 2001 to May 2, 2011, Osama Bin Laden evaded intelligence services and special forces units, drones and hunter killer squads. The Exile tells the extraordinary inside story of that decade through the eyes of those who witnessed it: bin Laden’s four wives and many children, his deputies and military strategists, his spiritual advisor, the CIA, Pakistan’s ISI, and many others who have never before told their stories.

        • D5-5
          August 18, 2017 at 18:20

          Thanks for the link here. Hersh writes very interestingly on Bin Laden’s killing, which is controversial in that some people believe Bin Laden died clear back in 01 (although the source you link to also disputes this notion). In Hersh’s account a very clever ruse was used with doctors visiting the compound where Bin Laden was essentially a prisoner of the ISI. This was to establish it WAS Bin Laden, and done via dna sampling. With that, Obama was convinced and ordered the operation, which was nothing like reported by the MSM as some kind of major rumble. Our boys basically shredded him with their automatic weapons once they broke into his apartment on the third floor. Most likely his remains were deposited in the Hindu Kush, not buried at sea as was the story at that time.

  16. August 17, 2017 at 17:41

    Marie Ann Slaughter. It’s all in the name.

  17. Aaron
    August 17, 2017 at 17:31

    The UK Parliamentary Report this article links to Come on guys.

  18. Kozmo
    August 17, 2017 at 17:27

    NATO and the US break nations, we don’t build them.

  19. August 17, 2017 at 17:19

    I’m sure you’ll sleep better tonight knowing that as author ( s ) of this piece , you completely ignored the fundamental underpinnings as to why The United States Continues to become the chief protagonist in major wars all over ! The reason why U.S. Government learns No Lessons from many disastrous interventions is , they are controlled like puppets by world bankers who have played both sides on every conflict . The so-called elites of banking get richer by the moment in dollars and gold ; all the while , gleefully jumping for joy at the fools that are being used as cannon fodder in their bloody play ! They consider all the world their stage & the humans whom bleed , suffer and die , are just the price that must be paid for elite bankers entertainment . As soon as the lead puppets in the military industrial complex decide that they are wanting Eternal Life instead of being snuffed out on Judgment Day , Then we shall have world peace & men will live peaceably . The war in Libya was because Gaddafi was performing monied deals using his huge wealth of gold to facilitate those deals without the world bankers getting their cut. Gaddafi also was helping to get an independent banking system , primarily established on the African continent . The bank he would have developed would have competed with the European banking elites and that is why the war against Gaddafi was instituted. China has plans and has pursued interests heavily in recent years for African development and Gaddafis bank would have reaped much influence with deals made with cooperation of Chinese investors. I pray that , military industrial complex insiders beg forgiveness for their sins and repent soon. JFK was assassinated due in large part to their indifference for the life of any one person getting in the way of their profits. Banker elites are probably beyond all hope but maybe the lead puppets & their associates whom make the wars possible , will someday save their own souls by begging Creator God for forgiveness . I sure hope that happens soon ; we will have endless wars until that day comes ….. with military men & women sacrificing their lives along with many others overseas , for the entertainment of corrupt evil bankers …………. As Author of this piece , you just forgot to mention ; the real reason by accident ……….. Right ?

    • ScottB
      August 17, 2017 at 19:14

      Well said, William. The bankers control the debt generated by conflict. Control and profits; also profiting from resource theft!

    • MaDarby
      August 17, 2017 at 22:10

      Yes, the bankers for sure but in a way they are the “transnational” side of the Empire. You mustn’t forget the owners of earth’s resources the Saudi king, the Cargill family and a few other families control the world’s natural resources and five tech owners control all of cyberspace. It’s under a hundred people probably including the bankers at the very top.

    • john wilson
      August 18, 2017 at 05:29

      My piece above adds to and supports your very good post with a slightly different angle.

  20. MaDarby
    August 17, 2017 at 16:24

    I have a dark view of all things Libya, starting with I believe the imperial state (deep is not quite it – it is the machinery of authoritarian imperial power) sees the operations there as victory. It is clear the Imperial desire is to eliminate the nation state and the notion of state sovereignty. Chaos is fine with them, causalities – they just don’t care. They have the muscle to take the resources. It is Margaret Thatcher’s “Society doesn’t exist.” Neoliberal ideology taken to its horrific conclusion.

    • mike k
      August 18, 2017 at 14:45

      They made off with the gold that Gaddafi had acquired to finance the African currency. I wonder who is counting that now?

  21. Joe Tedesky
    August 17, 2017 at 15:45

    Life’s a bitch enforcing the Oded Yinon plan, isn’t it?

  22. Zachary Smith
    August 17, 2017 at 15:39

    That danger in all this is that by refusing to learn the lessons of Libya (and Kosovo and Iraq and Syria) the U.S. foreign policy establishment will likely continue to find itself backing forces that seek to turn the greater Middle East into a fundamentalist Sunnistan, ruled by Sharia law, utterly hostile to religious pluralism, the rights of women, minorities and, naturally, U.S. national security interests in the region.

    I’m going to dispute the premise of the author that there was any kind of “mistake” or ‘lessons to be learned’. All these activities were – with the partial exception of Syria – brilliant successes. The modern nation of Libya was destroyed, from its extensive arsenal of weapons many boatloads were shipped to Syria, and the EU competitor in the north is under pressure and may yet be destabilized. What’s not to like?

    If Queen Hillary had been crowned – I mean inaugurated – on January 20 Syria would be also be circling the toilet bowl. And we’d be looking at some really promising new Wars For Israel.

    So the neocons are now stuck with Trump, and fortunately are taking the attitude that if life gives you a lemon, make lemonade. Trump is being reshaped, and with some good wrist action on the whip should finally come around.

    • mike k
      August 17, 2017 at 17:09

      Zachary, you are so full of it in your ignorant remarks. The rape of Libya by America and it’s craven allies is one of the most awful tragedies of these times. Libya was the crown of Africa under Gaddafi. When his plan to start an African Central bank with it’s own currency became known, the warhawks swooped in, beginning with a media blitz of demonizing Gaddafi for his liberal socialist government.

      Your thinking is making less and less sense to me. You seem to disagree with more and more things that are published here. For my part, this article was good, but it did not show how enough how truly benign Gaddafi’s government was for the Libyans.

      • Zachary Smith
        August 17, 2017 at 19:49

        The rape of Libya by America and it’s craven allies is one of the most awful tragedies of these times.

        Not if you ask Hillary, Obama, Israel, ISIS, France, or Britain.

        • mike k
          August 18, 2017 at 14:41

          I am not asking them – or you.

    • D5-5
      August 17, 2017 at 18:13

      I read Zachary’s comment as ironical and aimed at the notion that these policies are “mistakes” versus deliberate intent. That is, they were not “lessons” to be learned from as though “mistakes” from an otherwise benign intention. The point on Trump is also good. He must be reshaped by the neocons–in their view–or replaced due to his ineptitude with foreign policy.

      • Colin
        August 18, 2017 at 09:18

        I read it the same way. Zachary makes a very good point: for elite US and western elites these aren’t necessary failures, at least not in the short term,

      • mike k
        August 18, 2017 at 14:43

        You must have special glasses to read stuff like that, I don’t.

        • Druid
          August 20, 2017 at 14:31

          I read it as sarcasm!

    • Gregory Herr
      August 18, 2017 at 14:51

      Yessir Zachary…if the objectives of U.S. foreign policy involved a humanitarian responsibility to protect and the promotion of democracy or classic liberalism to achieve eventual peace and stability…well then the policy would have to be regarded as a mistaken blunderitis with lessons never learned. But we know that fairy tale is false, As Joe T. notes below, things have been going according to plan…and the managed chaos of never-ending war is a matter of success for those who see this as their profit and gain.
      The lessons were learned in Central and South America in the 80’s and in Iraq 14 years ago, and are still applied today. Terrorists can be characterized as rebels or freedom fighters while government heads can be relentlessly and even ridiculously demonized…the bought fourth estate can be counted on for cover and promotion….and the general public can be counted on for amnesia, breast-beating, and looking the other way.
      The problem is that lessons were learned.

  23. Kalen
    August 17, 2017 at 15:35

    Americans do not learn lessons. It is against of American religion of antiintelectualism and Horkheimer’s subjective reasoning. In other words ” my way or highway” attitude is as American as apple pie.
    Americans reject debate and go straight for verbal fight as a foreplay to violence since their goal is not to learn anything from one another but to dominate. So instead of questions and answers they have verbal attacks and responses verbal and if deemed necessary violence and intimidation that is ultimate goal of any American debate.

    Still wonder why Americans cannot learn anything?.

    • D5-5
      August 17, 2017 at 18:18

      This comment is unlike your usually thoughtful contributions, as with all generalizations and name-calling. It doesn’t add anything intelligent or helpful to a discussion.

      • Kalen
        August 18, 2017 at 04:42

        I am saying that this kind of anti-intellectual attitude dominates highest echelons of American power elite [hence Libya, Syria etc.,] while is also propagandized to the nation and sadly many are buying it becoming tools of oligarchic power.

        In fact your comment seems to prove my point. You did not address any of my points but attacked/judged the messenger instead of picking up debate.

        • D5-5
          August 18, 2017 at 10:07

          This comment is more coherent. Thank you.

      • john wilson
        August 18, 2017 at 05:19

        Hey D5-5, Kalen is right, but what he has missed out is the very big role the Europeans played in this affair. I have posted this piece before which I came across in a well known right wind news paper in the UK. If you haven’t seen it already I think you will find it informative.

        The French proposed UN Security council resolution 1937 claimed that a no fly zone imposed over Libya was to protect civilians, but a 2011 an email sent to Hillary Clinton – subject: ‘France’s client and Gaddafi’s gold’ suggests less noble motives.
        The email shows ex – French President Sarkozy as leading the attack on Libya with five goals in mind: to obtain Libya’s oil, ensure French influence, increase Sarkozy’s reputation at home, assert French military power, and to limit Gaddafi’s influence in Francophone Africa. There’s a lengthy section in the emails outlining the huge threat that Gadaffi’s gold and silver reserves – estimated at 143 tons of gold and a similar amount in silver – posed to the French franc circulating as prime African currency. In place of the so called noble sounding responsibility to protect the Libyan people doctrine fed to the public via MSM, there’s a confidential explanation as to what was really driving the war. The Libyan gold and silver reserves were accumulated long before the revolt (engineered through mercenaries planted by the US and Europe), ever began and was to be used to establish a pan- African currency based on the Libyan golden dinar. Gadaffi intended this independent currency to provide Francophone African countries with an alternative to the Franc and the dollar. Clearly the Americans and France along with the British were not going to tolerate any kind on challenge to the status quo, so Gadaffi had to be murdered. The question now is, “who got the gold and silver”? As some wag suggested on a post here a while back, the gold and silver loot is probably safely stored away somewhere in the American federal reserve.

        Whilst the American involvement in the horror of Libya is apparent and Apart from Clinton’s remark ” we came we saw he died”, there was nothing quite so disgusting as seeing Prime minister Cameron and his jester side kick William Hague, rushing off to Libya after the horrific murder of Gadaffi, on a march of triumph and glory, to shake hands with the terrorists there.

        • LongGoneJohn
          August 18, 2017 at 08:21

          Indeed, this was a French/Briton creation.

        • D5-5
          August 18, 2017 at 10:17

          Thanks. I object to loose generalizations, not to substance on rogue western governments. The American Government led the rape of Libya as far as I’m concerned, Obama man of peace at the helm.

        • eric
          August 19, 2017 at 10:09

          Exactly like a common criminal ” WE came we saw He died ” and his gold and silver went into the U.S. federal reserve .

        • Mark Thomason
          August 20, 2017 at 14:14

          The British and French were tools of Hillary. She went there and recruited them to pull the US in. Both British and French knew with complete certainty they could not do this on their own. They could only be the match used by Hillary to set off the powder magazine. They were happy to do that, but it is far from fair to say it was their venture.

        • Druid
          August 20, 2017 at 14:28

          Don’t forget that paragon of non-virtue, that pseudo-philosopher and hypocritical Ziofascists’ part in the propaganda , Bernard Henri -levy, that monster!

      • LongGoneJohn
        August 18, 2017 at 08:20

        Gimme a heads up when reason and intelligence have slain the beast.

    • Habnk
      August 20, 2017 at 10:23

      “Learn lessons”? What lesson is that? That it is wrong to interfere in the affairs of another nation. That it is wrong to assassinate foreign leaders? The main lesson the USA “leaders” have to learn is that the USA is NOT the world’s policeman and just about every action the USA takes in foreign territories is illegal under international law. There are no lessons to be learned from Libya because it was obviously wrong to have Qaddafi overthrown and murdered. The only lesson the USA really needs to learn is to mind it’s own business!

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