Since the attack that took the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in September 2012, Benghazi has taken on a life of its own, serving as everything from a rallying cry against the Obama administration to a derisive hashtag poking fun at administration critics. But for all the talk about the year-and-a-half-old scandal, what’s happening in the real Benghazi, Libya, today has received little attention. As limited military aid and training flow into Iraq and Syria, Libya is slipping closer and closer to outright civil war.
After the end of the 2011 NATO military campaign in Libya that ousted Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the transitional government that was set up seemed to be poised for a peaceful transition of power. But before long, former rebels and militia groups, unhappy with the slow pace of change after Qaddafi’s government was toppled, began to clash with government forces.
The attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi prompted many Western governments to close up their diplomatic missions in Libya, and the situation there continued to unravel. In October 2013, then-Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was briefly abducted from a hotel in Tripoli by an armed militia; three months later, the country’s deputy industry minister was assassinated.
Now, a retired general named Khalifa Haftar has launched a full-on campaign against Islamist militias and what’s left of the Libyan government, and a parliamentary election last week drew a weak turnout that reflected Libyans’ lack of confidence in a tattered political system. In one district in Benghazi, Islamist militants fired on a local security headquarters on election day, killing four and wounding at least 30. Haftar’s promises to rid the country of “Islamist terrorists” (in his words) have won him support among Libyans who are exhausted with the violence and uncertainty that has plagued the country for years.
Despite the deteriorating situation, the U.S. has indicated that it’s unlikely to get involved in Libya again anytime soon. “There is an acknowledgement that there is only so much we can do,” a U.S. official told Reuters. The farthest the U.S. has been willing to go so far is to send special envoys to Libya to try to bring together warring factions, a move that is unlikely to make a dent on its own. A $600 million international program to train a Libyan “General Purpose Force” that was announced last year has yet to get off the ground. The limited scope of announced American involvement in Iraq and Syria makes clear the lack of appetite for further engagement in the region. In all likelihood, Libya is on its own as it struggles to create a cohesive government once again.
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Just after President Obama finished his address to the DNC, Hillary Clinton walked out on stage to join him, so the better could share a few embraces, wave to the crowd—and let the cameras capture all the unity for posterity.
In a speech that began a bit like a State of the Union address, President Obama said the "country is stronger and more prosperous than it was" when he took office eight years ago. He then talked of battling Hillary Clinton for the nomination in 2008, and discovering her "unbelievable work ethic," before saying that no one—"not me, not Bill"—has ever been more qualified to be president. When his first mention of Donald Trump drew boos, he quickly admonished the crowd: "Don't boo. Vote." He then added that Trump is "not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either."
Tim Kaine introduced himself to the nation tonight, devoting roughly the first half of his speech to his own story (peppered with a little of his fluent Spanish) before pivoting to Hillary Clinton—and her opponent. "Hillary Clinton has a passion for children and families," he said. "Donald Trump has a passion, too: himself." His most personal line came after noting that his son Nat just deployed with his Marine battalion. "I trust Hillary Clinton with our son's life," he said.
Michael Bloomberg said he wasn't appearing to endorse any party or agenda. He was merely there to support Hillary Clinton. "I don't believe that either party has a monopoly on good ideas or strong leadership," he said, before enumerating how he disagreed with both the GOP and his audience in Philadelphia. "Too many Republicans wrongly blame immigrants for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on climate change and gun violence," he said. "Meanwhile, many Democrats wrongly blame the private sector for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on education reform and deficit reduction." Calling Donald Trump a "dangerous demagogue," he said, "I'm a New Yorker, and a know a con when I see one."
Vice President Biden tonight called President Obama "one of the finest presidents we have ever had" before launching into a passionate defense of Hillary Clinton. "Everybody knows she's smart. Everybody knows she's tough. But I know what she's passionate about," he said. "There's only one person in this race who will help you. ... It's not just who she is; it's her life story." But he paused to train some fire on her opponent "That's not Donald Trump's story," he said. "His cynicism is unbounded. ... No major party nominee in the history of this country has ever known less."