Over the weekend, The New York Times ran two major articles looking at Hillary Clinton’s role in the Obama administration’s deliberations over whether or not to intervene in the Libyan civil war in 2011. They offer what is, at times, a damning critique that portrays Clinton, then the U.S. secretary of state, as eager to get involved in Libya, but less interested in what might come after the U.S. intervention.
A deeper look at the articles, however, suggests a greater indictment of President Barack Obama for his willingness to get involved in Libya but not to see the mission through.
Nonetheless, looking for who to blame on Libya is a bit of a fool’s errand, as is the widespread inclination, as reflected in the Times reporting, to continue to view the Libya intervention in black-and-white terms. The situation in Libya in March 2011 demanded quick decision-making based on poor intelligence. In the end, the Obama administration was forced to choose among bad and worse options, and the decision to act should be judged in that context.