Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton warned that her opponent Republican nominee Donald Trump’s foreign policy would start a war, but it is Clinton who is largely responsible for starting a war in Libya.
Clinton claimed that Trump’s willingness to fire upon Iran’s navy for its multiple provocations against U.S. warships would irresponsibly start a war. That said, it is Clinton who is widely held responsible for being the persuasive voice in the White House that helped push President Barack Obama into supporting the ouster of Libyan Dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Gaddafi was a well-known international villain who supported terrorism and horrendous violations against his own people, but before he was violently dethroned and killed in the streets of Libya, he had reached a detente with the West. When the Arab Spring caught fire in 2011, several dictators were toppled across the Middle East, Gaddafi was one of them.
Before the U.S. got involved in the Libyan uprising, it was the United Kingdom and France who first got involved. Several junior aides in the Obama administration pushed for the president to be “on the right side of history,” but Obama remained hesitant.
Seeing an easy opportunity to secure her foreign policy legacy, Clinton tipped the scales of a divided Obama administration in favor of air strikes in support of the rebels. She argued that the U.S. “will be left behind” if it does not get involved. By March 2011, the U.S. and NATO initiated Operation Odyssey Dawn, a massive air strike campaign which crippled Gaddafi’s regime.
U.S. and NATO replaced Gaddafi’s iron fist with the National Transitional Council (NTC), a Libyan resistance group that failed to ultimately gain control of the entirety of Libya. The tumultuous security environment opened up an opportunity for terrorist groups like Ansar al-Sharia to gain a foothold in the country. Militants from Ansar al-Sharia would later be responsible for the infamous attacks on the U.S consulate and CIA annex on September 11, 2012 which took the lives Ambassador Chris Stephens, Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
Militants belonging to the Islamic State would later seize upon the chaos and establish a chapter in the coastal city of Sirte, where they still operate today. The United Nations-backed Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) has made significant progress in pushing back the terrorist group, but only after years of instability and several lives.