She cannot be blamed for Vladimir Putin’s criminality or, therefore, for the failure of her “reset” with Russia, which was perhaps worth trying. And she cannot be primarily blamed for the calamities of Iraq, Syria and ISIS, which were incubated before her State Department tenure.
Libya, however, was what is known in tennis as an “unforced error,” and Clinton was, with President Obama, its co-author.
On March 28, 2011, nine days after the seven-month attack on Libya began and 10 days after saying it would last “days, not weeks,” Obama gave the nation televised assurance that “the task that I assigned our forces (is) to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger and to establish a no-fly zone.” He said that U.S. forces would play only a “supporting role” in what he called a “NATO-based” operation, although only eight of NATO’s 28 members participated and the assault could not have begun without U.S. assets.
Then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates said at the time that no vital U.S. interest was at stake. Recently, he told The New York Times (Feb. 27, 2016) that “the fiction was maintained” that the goal was to cripple Moammar Gadhafi’s ability to attack other Libyans. This was supposedly humanitarian imperialism implementing “R2P,” the “responsibility to protect.”