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WHO LOST LIBYA?

Obama’s ‘smart power’ doctrine turned out to be not so smart when it came to toppling Muammar el-Qaddafi
FREE REIN: Nearly five years after Qaddafi’s death, Libya is a chaotic and dangerous place, with a hodgepodge of Islamic militia groups overseeing vast swaths of territory.
MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/GETTY

“A MORE DEMOCRATIC region will ultimately be more stable for us and our friends. Even if someone wants to be dictatorial, it’s going to be difficult.” —An American diplomat, after the overthrow of a Middle Eastern dictator

That quote sounds as if it came from what the foreign policy elite in the Obama administration would call some “neocon nut job,” with an eerie echo of the blindly confident rhetoric from the early days of the U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2003. Except this time the speaker wasn’t a neocon nut job, and it was May 2012. Denis McDonough, then Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, was taking a victory lap in a speech at a Washington think tank. And he wasn’t boasting about Iraq; he was crowing about Libya.

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THE GREAT UNRAVELLING How the politics of paranoia is reshaping the world.
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