Libyan crossfire: U.S. politics is at work in capital hearings

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Two events this week -- Senate confirmation hearings for Deborah K. Jones, named as the new ambassador to Libya, and House Republican hearings on the killing of four Americans last September in Benghazi -- are refocusing attention on the difficult plight of that country.

It is still chaotic, after the 2011 fall and death of leader Moammar Gadhafi. Responding to an uprising prompted by his despotic misgovernment of the oil-rich, North African desert nation, rebels supported militarily by Western nations and some Arab countries waged war until the Gadhafi regime fell. President Barack Obama never obtained congressional approval for intervention in the conflict, which occurred after considerable debate within his administration.

Libya's lack of a functional national security force or a justice system continues to have dire consequences for its people and for any foreign party that desires business with the new regime. Heavily armed, lawless militias, some of them extreme Islamist in their orientation, operate freely, particularly in the eastern region of Cyrenaica, of which Benghazi is the capital.

The first ugly ramification for the United States was the killing of the American ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other U.S. officials in Benghazi last September, during an attack on the U.S. office there. The circumstances remain murky and none of the perpetrators has been apprehended. Republican lawmakers are using the hearings as a witchhunt to sabotage any plans that former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton might have to run for president in 2016 by hanging the Benghazi deaths around her neck.

What happened to the Americans in Benghazi was tragic. Placing the blame on Ms. Clinton, however, is misguided, whatever her political prospects. It is important now to bring an end to Libya's chaos and enable the government to use the country's oil wealth to improve the standard of living.

For Mr. Obama, the spectacle of persistent chaos in Libya, the disorder in Iraq and the problems in Yemen and Egypt should underline the folly of inserting the United States deeper into such Middle East conflicts, starting with Syria.



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