Speaking today at the UN General Assembly, President Obama took a surprisingly contrite stance, however briefly, on the NATO war against Libya, conceding that “mistakes were made” in a war that led to the current state, with much of Libya ungoverned and multiple competing city-based governments vying for control.
Not that Obama regrets the war. Rather, he insists that the US and NATO should’ve “done more” to ensure that the pro-NATO government propped up after the ouster of Gadhafi was able to survive. In short, his regret on a disastrous war is that he didn’t double down on it.
That seems to be the default position for wartime US presidents to take these days, and the desperation to keep occupation forces in Afghanistan 14 years after the invasion seems to reflect a fallback policy to avoid admitting failure by simply continuing to compound on it.
Still, that he admitted to mistakes at all is somewhat surprising, and likely reflects an effort to defend against criticism from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who noted today that the power vacuum the US created with the war is being filled by various Islamist groups, including ISIS.
This is about more than Libya, of course, as Putin sees fairly strong parallels between what happened there and US intervention elsewhere in the region. Indeed, the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria fairly neatly coincides with the US occupying and destroying much of Iraq, and then pouring money and arms into Syria to destabilize that country.