The Washington Post

Obama and the fall of Libya’s Qaddafi: No ‘brilliant formula’ for success, says Elliott Abrams

Writing at CNN, Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Elliott Abrams says that any administration would claim success after the fall and death of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. The problem with the Obama administration, as Abrams sees it, is that they seem to think they have now have “a brilliant formula here that eliminated all problems and achieved every goal at almost no cost.” But Abrams argues that the same outcome could have been accomplished with fewer deaths, less damage to Libya and without risking U.S. relationships with its allies.

The limitations imposed on the use of American military power lengthened the Libyan internal conflict. The Transitional National Council estimated a total of 25,000 dead and 60,000 wounded. Had we acted faster and not restricted the American role, those numbers would be smaller — perhaps far smaller, and the damage to Libya’s infrastructure also smaller. And had we used more air power to end the war faster, in weeks instead of months, perhaps the Libyan regime’s arsenals, including the extremely dangerous MANPAD shoulder-launched missiles, could have been captured intact. Instead, stolen Libyan weaponry will present a threat for years to come.

Allen McDuffee writes about politics and policy and covered think tanks for The Washington Post from 2011 to 2013. He freelances and hosts a podcast at and is currently working on a book about the influence of think tanks in Washington.
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