President Obama revealed Sunday that he believes his biggest mistake as president was not preparing for what should be done in Libya after the military intervention that helped oust dictator Muammar Gaddafi, according to ABC News.
He made this comment during an interview on Fox News. He also listed some of his more proud accomplishments in the interview.
“Probably failing to plan for the day after what I think was the right thing to do in intervening in Libya,” President Obama said was his biggest mistake while speaking with Fox’s Chris Wallace.
Though Obama reportedly regrets not sufficiently planning for the aftermath of the conflict in Libya, he still said he believes deciding to intervene was the “right thing to do,” according to the BBC.
The intervention occurred in March 2011, and it was in response to extensive civilian killings that were believed to be tied to the Gaddafi government. This was in the midst of Libya’s civil war. Canada, Britain, France, and other countries launched many airstrikes against the Libyan government’s military. The conflict lasted several months, and sanctions against the Libyan government also helped eventually defeat the Gaddafi regime.
President Obama has mentioned the difficult situation he faced after the regime was toppled before, including in a recent profile done by The Atlantic.
“We got a UN mandate, we built a coalition, it cost us $1 billion—which, when it comes to military operations, is very cheap,” Obama said. “We averted large-scale civilian casualties, we prevented what almost surely would have been a prolonged and bloody civil conflict. And despite all that, Libya is a mess.”
Gaddafi was ousted and killed at the end of the conflict, and chaos ensued for long after.
The New York Times described the chaos throughout Libya in 2014.
“The country is coming undone,” Kareem Fahim wrote. “Relentless factional fighting in Tripoli and in the eastern city of Benghazi has left dozens of people dead. Well-known political activists have been killed, diplomats have been kidnapped, and ordinary citizens fear bandits on the roads.”
These statements from President Obama may not be welcomed by Hillary Clinton. She has defended her advocacy of the intervention on several occasions, as Vanity Fair points out, and these statements could make her appear to be out of step with the president.
“I think President Obama made the right decision at the time,” Clinton said during a Democratic debate in October, according to The Atlantic. “And the Libyan people had a free election the first time since 1951. And you know what, they voted for moderates, they voted with the hope of democracy. Because of the Arab Spring, because of a lot of other things, there was turmoil to be followed.”
Not only has Clinton defended the actions President Obama is now saying ended in a mistake, but her opponent on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders, has been very critical of the intervention and her other military decisions.
“Regime change without worrying about what happens the day after you get rid of the dictator does not make a lot of sense,” Sanders told The Guardian in December. Sanders has also been very critical of Clinton’s decision to vote in favor of the Iraq War, which he voted against.
President Obama has praised Clinton and said she would make a good president, so it’s possible these comments won’t have a major impact on her campaign. He also appears to be supporting her campaign by convincing donors to get behind her.
President Obama may also differ from other world leaders who were involved in the intervention when saying he made a mistake, as British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he does not feel it was a mistake.
“Do I regret that Britain played our role in getting rid of [Col Muammar] Gaddafi and coming to the aid of that nation when Gaddafi was going to murder his own citizens in Benghazi? No, I don’t,” he said last year, according to The Telegraph.
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