But it’s a mess, and Clinton is going to have to answer for it next fall. The nature of the attack, however, will be different, depending on who the Republican is. If it’s Marco Rubio, well, he too supported the Libya intervention. More recently, Rubio has to tried to outline the additional steps we should have taken to secure the country, but that’s always Monday-morning quarterbacking and nobody takes it very seriously. So Clinton can deal with him easily enough, I think.
Trickier challenges will come from Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. Trump and Cruz now unapologetically take the old Cold War position, which is that these world messes aren’t our problem and the United States is infinitely better off with a bunch of dictators in place keeping a lid on things. There will be much appeal in that position for a big chunk of Americans. And it’s not without certain merits—broadly speaking, the region would be “better off,” certainly from the point of view of U.S. national security interests, if Saddam Hussein were still throwing thousands of people in prison and torturing dissidents and gassing Kurds.
But…are our politics really that vapid and stupid, that all we can do now as a country is to lurch from one amoral extreme to the other? Let dictators do whatever they want, kill and torture and rape whomever they want to, as long as they’re not bothering us; or start ground wars against them based on a set of morally irresponsible and indefensible assumptions? Is that really the level on which we’re destined to have this discourse?