If NATO and the Arab League weren’t going to send peacekeepers, what were they going to do to ensure a modicum of security? The answer is: not much.
Apparently after Kadafi’s fall, the CIA worked with Libyan allies to try to secure the strongman’s remaining stockpile of chemical weapons and possibly some of his shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles, but the U.S. did almost nothing to help the new government in Tripoli disarm militias and restore law and order. This left Libya’s new leaders at the mercy of thousands of armed men on its streets who answered only to local warlords or possibly to no one at all.
In a way, if on a much lesser level, Obama was repeating the mistake that President George W. Bush made in Afghanistan and Iraq, two other countries where the U.S. did little to fill a power vacuum after toppling the existing regimes. Those examples should have taught the U.S. a lesson that has been relearned in Libya (and is now being confirmed in Syria): Any power vacuum in the Middle East inevitably gets filled by jihadists, who have access to weapons and a proclivity to use them, while the “silent majority” of moderate Muslims, who are concerned primarily about a better life for themselves and their families, are too cowed to resist.