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Obama’s Revelation About His ‘Worst Mistake’ Unlikely to Change Libyans’ Fates

Last Sunday, US President Barack Obama said he believed the worst mistake of his presidency was a lack of strategic planning in Libya following the 2011 toppling of Moammar Gaddafi. "Probably failing to plan for the day after what I think was the right thing to do in intervening in Libya," he said in a Fox News interview, when asked what his worst mistake was.

Valdai Club experts Mustafa El-Labbad and Veniamin Popov believe Obama’s revelation can hardly change anything for Libyans whose country is now engulfed in a civil war.

“Although he admitted that it was a mistake, Obama did not say anything about what he was going to do in order to compensate the Libyan people for [the consequences of the NATO operation],” said Mustafa El-Labbad, founder and director of the Cairo-based Al Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies.

In an interview for The Atlantic earlier this month, Obama said the operation in Libya “was executed as well as I could have expected”, although Libya today is a “mess”.

In the same interview Obama tried to shift the blame for the lack of strategic planning on British Prime Minister David Cameron who he said became "distracted by a range of other things" after the operation.

“It was the first time in sixty years that a US president openly criticized an ally. But I didn’t see any deterioration in the United States’ relations with Britain or France,” El_Labbad said. “And now no one is held responsible for what they have done and for the chaos in Libya.”

“Today there can be no denial that [the Libyan operation] was far more that a mistake. It was a reckless scheme, because Libya is torn into pieces and nobody knows how to put it together,” said Veniamin Popov, Director of the Center for the Partnership of Civilizations at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO).

“It was a usual failure of western policies, because they always intervene unilaterally, without a Security Council sanction, Popov pointed out. “This is what happened during the US invasion of Iraq, this is what happened during the NATO bombings of Syria. Although they cite the Secuirty Council resolution, it did not give them the right to bomb. While it read that security must be provided to civilians, more than 30,000 people were killed. When protection of civilians leads to dozens of thousands of casualties, this is barbarianism, to put it mildly.”

Popov believes there is a high probability that the West can organize a new intervention in Libya. “If this is again done without a Security Council resolution, we will have another reckless undertaking,” he stressed.

“The international law must be observed. According to it, any intervention can only be legal if there is a request from a legitimate government and a Security Council resolution,” Popov concluded.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.