In an interview Sunday with Chris Wallace, President Obama said that failing to plan for a post-Qaddafi Libya was his worst mistake. While I think his worst mistake was abandoning Iraq in 2011, this is still a remarkable admission. For years after the Iraq invasion, Democrats mocked George Bush’s failure to adequately plan for a post-invasion future (there was a plan, but it didn’t work), taunting him with Colin Powell’s now-famous saying — “You broke it. You own it.” Bush should have seen that his invasion would create chaos. He should have seen that Islamist militias would thrive amidst the violence.
So what does Obama do with his first war? He helps create chaos on the ground while leaving America with virtually no ability to influence the ultimate outcome. He broke it and didn’t even try to own it. Incredibly, he still seems somewhat surprised things didn’t turn out well. Here he is, speaking to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg:
So we actually executed this plan as well as I could have expected: We got a UN mandate, we built a coalition, it cost us $1 billion—which, when it comes to military operations, is very cheap. 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.
Who could imagine that bargain-basement war would leave America with few options?
In spite of multiple mistakes, at least by 2009 Iraq was reasonably stable, al-Qaeda was on the run, and the nation had a chance for a decent future. Obama by contrast left Libya a deadly shambles, and now ISIS and other jihadists control entire cities and regions in a country right on Europe’s doorstep. Come to think of it, that’s how he’s leaving Iraq — with Afghanistan headed in the same direction. When America creates power vacuums, jihadists fill the void.