Building Libya

Building Libya

The fallout from the recent Benghazi attacks continues. The New York Times reports that

the Obama administration quietly won Congress’s approval last month to shift about $8 million from Pentagon operations and counterterrorism aid budgeted for Pakistan to begin building an elite Libyan force over the next year that could ultimately number about 500 troops.

At first, the force’s mission seems somewhat narrow; it is intended to “enhance ‘Libya’s ability to combat and defend against threats from Al Qaeda and its affiliates.’” But as the piece goes on, the scope of the nascent elite force—and Washington’s involvement with it—broadens. Apparently, “Libyan commentators have expressed hope that a Western power would help train the country’s fledgling national army,” and State has allotted “an additional $4 million to help Libya improve control of its borders.” What began as $8 million to help build a single force has spiraled into $12 million, a role in training the entire national army and responsibility for stemming the tide of weapons that began flowing from Libya after the revolution (while, somewhat paradoxically, providing “unspecified equipment for the commandos” that, one presumes, will include more weapons).

Libya was touted as an example of humanitarian intervention without boots on the ground and without nation building. This newest effort to create, build, arm and train Libyan armed forces, however, can hardly be called anything but a nation-building drive.

Most tellingly of all,

the internal State Department budget document to Congress states that the program will also be “encouraging increased professionalism and respect for human rights.”

Mitt Romney recently suggested that Washington limit aid to those rebels in Syria “who share our values.” The Obama administration has reversed the process in Libya; instead of seeking out and promoting those who share American values, it is seeking to inculcate those values in those it promotes.

Armed with money, weapons, military forces and ideological fervor, Obama has launched a nation-building campaign in Libya. He may have done so quietly, but he did so just as surely as his predecessor did in Afghanistan and Iraq.