Religious Freedom Coalition, by Andrew Harrod, PhD, Feb. 4, 2016:
To learn more about the September 11, 2012, attack upon the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, portrayed in themovie 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, read Architects of Disaster: The Destruction of Libya by Pete Hoekstra. The former congressman insightfully analyzes the “naiveté run amok” concerning global jihad of President Barack Obama and “his chief foreign policy lieutenant, Hillary Clinton—who hopes to be the next commander-in-chief.”
Hoekstra, former House Intelligence Committee chairman, examines how this attack “was the culmination of a foreign policy on Islamic terrorism that was grounded in wishful thinking and self-delusion” concerning “moderate” Islamists. This Obama administration definition often required “nothing more than a group’s professed commitment to nonviolence, however unsavory the group’s ultimate objectives.” During the 2011 overthrow of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Obama cooperated with “countless salafi-jihadist veterans of the global Al Qaeda.” American policymakers were “seemingly content to buy jihadists’ assurances that they would pursue jihad solely in their homeland.”
Hoekstra remains at a loss to justify the Libya campaign’s estimated 9,700 NATO airstrikes and 20,000 tons of weapons delivered by Qatar, mostly to jihadists like those that brutally killed the fallen Gaddafi. Although the Libyan campaign was supposedly a humanitarian intervention, “sensational reports of humanitarian abuses, having been largely generated by Gaddafi’s opposition, were vastly overstated.” In the face of Gaddafi’s imminent victory, the foreign intervention was “not seeking to bring the killing to a halt or to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the war, but rather to help the losing side win—by definition a prolongation of the conflict.”
Hoekstra fully recognizes that “Muammar Gaddafi was a monster, but he was our monster” at the time of his overthrow. Hoekstra had first visited Libya with a 2003 congressional delegation specifically requested by President George W. Bush to determine whether Gaddafi genuinely sought better relations with the West. Hoekstra had multiple meetings with Gaddafi during two subsequent official visits.
“Gaddafi was obviously driven by his instinct for self-preservation,” Hoekstra writes, but the transformation of American-Libyan relations under a despot previously notorious for international terrorism “was nothing short of stunning.” After “September 11, 2001, Gaddafi had emerged as one of America’s greatest assets in one of the world’s most dangerous regions, northern Africa—strategically located between the tinder box of the Sahel and the soft underbelly of southern Europe.” Additionally, “human rights conditions in Libya generally improved during this period.”
Contrastingly, a chaotic post-Gaddafi “Libya is today a central nexus for training and equipping jihadists across the Middle East,” notes Hoekstra. Along with shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, “Islamic terrorists almost surely got their hands on the remnants of Gaddafi’s chemical weapons arsenal.” Libya exemplifies how Obama has “thrown out dictators only to embrace far worse. American foreign policy has been turned upside-down.”
“Gaddafi, for all his sordid history, was infinitely wiser than Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton” concerning Islam, notes Hoekstra. “Gaddafi appreciated—in ways few Americans could—how vast were the jihadists’ global ambitions” and that “their scorn for democracy and individual rights dwarfed even his own.” Accordingly, under him the Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood “was never allowed the opportunity to expand its influence by building a substantial social welfare network,” in contrast to neighboring Egypt.
Hoekstra finds a certain precedent for Obama administration Islam fantasies in President George W. Bush, who “repeatedly proclaimed Islam a ‘religion of peace.’” Bush wanted “to avoid being seen as attacking the overwhelming majority of Muslims, who go about their lives peaceably,” yet “such a formulation also left too many things unsaid.” This “refusal of the Bush administration to take seriously or understand the realities of Muslim culture” led him “to grossly underestimate the enormous obstacles that it faced in seeking to foster Western-style democracies in that part of the world.”
Hoekstra contrasts the “heads of state and chief intelligence leaders of just about every country that bordered Iraq” that he visited before the 2003 invasion. “Almost to a person they said the same thing: ‘You’re making a huge mistake. You don’t know what you will be unleashing.’” Today “Iraq is a disaster of incalculable proportions…We owned Iraq for a time, but we left before the job of rebuilding was done—assuming that it could have ever been completed.” Similarly, the “Afghanistan we are now leaving is little different from the Afghanistan we inherited.”
“If such countries are ever to change fundamentally, we must understand that their change will be a long and exceedingly slow process” and “locally driven, not imposed by outsiders,” Hoekstra concludes. He recalls a 2007 Jordan visit in which during “three days I talked with the Iraqi Sunni chieftains, and over and over I heard the same thing.” “We have a system of local government that has worked thousands of years: It is called the tribal system,” they stated, “if you think that you can impose democratic electoral reforms at the local level, we will continue to fight you.” “General David Petraeus took heed,” writes Hoekstra, with a “surge” campaign making explicitly “clear to the local Sunnis that America was suspending efforts at democratization at the local level…and the rest is history.”
“Failing to grasp the fundamental lesson of those earlier experiences—that once broken, a nation is very difficult to put back together—President Obama broke Libya,” Hoekstra writes. He is amazed that the “chief celebrant of Gaddafi’s murder,” Clinton, “actually gloated on camera: ‘We came, we saw, he died.’” “It is an image that will likely haunt her presidential campaign and should,” Hoekstra notes.
“Geopolitical affairs are rarely black or white,” Hoekstra soberly concludes from his years on the intelligence committee. He “traveled to more than eighty countries, sometimes meeting with leaders rightly reputed as being among the harshest and most oppressive in the world,” yet “they were the lesser of two evils…the devil we knew.” “The world needs a strong America—an America that understands who it is, what it will do, and what its power can, and cannot, achieve.”
Andrew E. Harrod is a researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies. He can be followed on twitter at @AEHarrod.