Monday, March 7
Hillary Clinton: Say, let's horse trade with the lives of millions of people!
From John Batchelor's March 3 discussion with investigative reporter Jo Becker about the two-part series, The Libya Gamble, she co-authored with Scott Shane for The New York Times that details the role then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton played in the U.S. military intervention of Libya in March 2011 and the aftermath in the country up to August 2012. (Podcast - 39:53 minutes):
BECKER: But also we kinda had taken the view that we didn't want to get our hands dirty so we turned a blind eye and we allowed regional players like the United Arab Emirates and the Qataris to arm the rebels.
The Qataris were particularly of concern by this time, by the summer of 2011, because they were arming mainly not the entirety of the opposition but Islamist groups in kind of a wider-play proxy war they were waging with the United Arab Emirates [UAE] for influence in this region.
And so Mrs Clinton -- and we detail this in the story -- there was a secret and never-before confirmed debate over whether the United States now ought to get into the business of arming the rebels, which is kind of the ultimate mission creep, right? -- we're now arming one side of the war. Mrs Clinton took the position that we should.
Her view was that she could hardly go to the Qataris and tell them to cut it out, stop arming elements of the opposition that we were worried would make rebuilding Libya in the long run more difficult if we weren't helping and they were losing. The Qataris would simply come back and say, Well you're not helping them so we need to.
36:46 minute mark
BATCHELOR: At this point did the State Department have a Plan B, given the warnings?
BECKER: You know, I think that these were really, really difficult problems and they were actually made more difficult because our other allies in this, our Arab allies, the UAE and Qatar as I said were fighting this proxy war. So they went on -- not only did the Libyan political officials not have the willpower to get these militias to lay down their arms, but the UAE and Qatar were arming opposing factions, sending yet more arms into this country that was already bristling with them.
So her idea now was, well, maybe if we arm the Syrian rebels -- which she wanted to do anyway for her own reasons -- maybe we could make a trade with Qatar and say we'll arm folks in Syria, which you care more about now, if you'll cut it out in Libya.
But she didn't protest very loudly; there wasn't really any public protest. And Stevens was sympathetic but he at one point said to a guy who brought these complaints who said, Please do something about this -- he said, 'Well what am I going to do? When I go to the UAE what they tell me is that they're dealing with the [Libyan] defense minister. How much more official can you get?'
Note that Jo Becker did not answer John Batchelor's question in the above exchange. But her way of avoiding what would be a disastrous admission inadvertently brought out the starkest truth underlying not only Clinton's approach to Libya but the entire American approach to interventions in foreign countries since the end of the Cold War. To repeat:
"We Came, We Saw, He Died"