In an interview with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is considering a presidential run as a foreign policy war hawk, George Will sums up what went wrong with Hillary Clinton’s diplomacy in Libya and gives us a useful term: “progressive imperialism.”
Secretary of State Clinton helped initiate a protracted assassination attempt — eight months of chasing Moammar Gaddafi with fighter-bombers. This exercise in regime change succeeded in decapitating Libya’s government. It was, however, progressive imperialism, supposedly humanitarian muscularity untainted by any clear and substantial U.S. national interest. Hence its appeal to a liberal administration, which neglected to ask the question conservatives have learned to ask before going abroad in search of monsters to destroy: “But then what?”Now we know what. Libya is a failed state incubating radical Islamists.
In 2016, when Clinton is asked about her complicity in this calamity, she might say, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” Graham will be unable to press the point effectively. Eight years after the hard lessons of Iraq, he, too, supported violent regime change in Libya. His primary regret was that insufficient U.S. force was employed. In a joint statement with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Graham said: “Americans can be proud of the role our country” played, except for “the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our air power.”
Graham did urge taking responsibility for the aftermath: “Let’s get on the ground and help the Libyan people establish a democracy.” Democracy’s prerequisites were, however, as lacking there as they were in Iraq, where we should have learned the perils of “nation-building,” and how discordant that project is with all conservative precepts.