By Bonnie Kristian
The real story of the 800-page report that is the result of the Select Committee on Benghazi’s months of investigation is not about what Hillary Clinton knew and when—though, to be sure, the inquiry presents criticisms worth serious consideration given their subject’s perpetual touting of her foreign policy record.
Nor is the story found in the document’s headlining revelations, like the fact that it was loyalists to the autocratic Gaddafi regime (yes, the very regime U.S. intervention aimed to overthrow) who were instrumental in saving American lives during 2012’s embassy attack. Nor is it the disclosure that the CIA did not know about these pro-Gaddafi fighters until after their involvement, or that the intelligence agency copped to multiple other serious errors. Nor yet is it the report’s allegation that forces within the Clinton State Department and the Obama administration more generally acted to impede transparency as the scandal around Benghazi grew.
No, the real story here is not specific to the Benghazi incident at all—or nearly so polarizing along partisan lines. It is rather found in the bigger picture of bipartisan military intervention, which in Libya produced yet another a reckless war of choice, a boondoggle which did nothing to protect U.S. interests, limit the spread of terrorism, or promote democracy (or even stability) in the greater Mideast.
We didn’t need two years of investigation to figure out what President Obama himself has all but admitted: 2011’s U.S.-led jaunt into Libya was a fool’s errand.
And the Benghazi attack, for all its shock and tragedy, is but one detail in a panorama of misadventure, an in many ways unsurprising consequence of the hubris of liberal interventionism’s false conviction that the American military can casually pop in and out of the whole world’s problems without suffering cost or consequence.
Indeed, the “2012 attack that killed four Americans was a consequence of the disorder and violence the administration left in the wake of its drive-by war,” as Tim Carney rightly argues at The Washington Examiner, and the “useful lesson from Benghazi isn't about a White House lying (shocking!), but about the inherent messiness of regime change and the impossibility of a quick, clean war.”
Unfortunately, that is lesson too few in Washington are willing to learn. Clinton herself maintains in the face of overwhelming evidence that her handiwork in Libya is an example of “smart power at its best”—a phrase whose blatant inaccuracy should haunt her ‘til kingdom come. With arguments in favor of Libya, Round 2 already swirling and Clinton’s poll numbers holding strong, it is not difficult to imagine a Clinton White House dragging America back to fiddle with a country it was never particularly interested in fixing by this time next year.
And the foreign policy establishment on the other side of the aisle must not be left without its due share of blame should that possibility come to pass. Though Benghazi committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) was right to attempt to widen the report’s focus past Clinton specifically, neoconservatives’ all-too-convenient convenient attention to the errors of Benghazi make it all easy for them go gloss over the bigger issue at hand: that none of this would have happened had America stuck to a foreign policy of realism and restraint, minding our own business and defending our own interests instead of gallivanting off to play revolutionary in one more country with no vital connection to our own.
Benghazi is a symptom—a serious one, at that—but the disease is interventionism. That’s the real story here, and it’s a bipartisan failure of judgment which shows all the signs of running on repeat.
Bonnie Kristian is a fellow at Defense Priorities. She is a weekend editor at The Week and a columnist at Rare, and her writing has also appeared at Time Magazine, Relevant Magazine and The American Conservative, among other outlets.
This piece was originally published by Reason on July 1, 2016. Read more HERE.