Post-Gaddafi Libya’s ‘kind of a mess’: Obama regrets counting on allies too much

Burnt cars are seen next to buildings damaged during clashes between military forces in Benghazi, Libya April 24, 2016 © Esam Omran Al-Fetori
The US should have not relied on other members of its anti-Gaddafi coalition in 2011 to ensure that Libya developed properly afterward, President Barack Obama said in an interview, adding: “Every day I make some mistake.”

“In terms of foreign policy, I’ve said this before, we decided to go in as part of a broader coalition, into Libya, to make sure that this guy [Colonel Muammar] Gaddafi, who had been state-sponsoring terrorism, did not go in and start slaughtering his own people,” Obama told PBS NewsHour on Wednesday at the Lerner Theatre in Elkhart, Indiana. “We succeeded and saved tens of thousands of lives, but I did all too much counting on other countries to then stabilize and support the government formation [in Libya] and now it is a kind of a mess.”

“I could give you a long list,” Obama added.

Obama’s answer came in response to a question about whether he’d change anything in his presidency if time travel were possible, and the president acknowledged there were some mistakes.

“I have to tell you, every day, you know, I make some mistake.  Fortunately, most of them aren’t that big.  Sometimes, you just make, use, your best judgment because you’re working with probabilities.  You don’t know the perfect answer.  If something’s easy, it does not reach my desk,” he said.

As well as Libya, on domestic policy Obama said the thing he would probably have done differently was to tell the American people that getting out of the 2008 recession would take a longer period of time.

“In the balance of trying to reassure people, I maybe didn’t indicate to them that, ‘Look, this is probably going to be a two, three, four-year process of us digging out of this hole,’ so we could have staged some of that recovery money over a longer period of time,” he said.

“Every day, when I wake up, I’m focused on how I could make your lives better, how I could protect the American people and increase your prosperity,” Obama said.

“At the end of the day, I can always say honestly that I did my best.”

Libya’s popular uprising began on February 17, 2011, and resulted in the toppling of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.  The ensuing civil war and international intervention that followed resulted in the deaths of up to 25,000 people in Libya. Some 400,000 people have been displaced as a result of the intervention, according to UN estimates.

The country de-facto split into three territories, controlled by various tribal groups that are constantly warring with each other, providing Islamic State and other extremist groups with an opportunity to gain a foothold in the oil-rich nation.