2011: Libya Intervention

Joe Biden had reservations about the U.S. intervention in Libya but later claimed that it was the right move to oust Gaddafi.

MISURATA, LIBYA - APRIL 20:  Rebel fighters carefully move into a building where they had trapped government loyalist troops during street fighting on Tripoli Street in downtown Misurata April 20, 2011 in Misurata, Libya.  Rebel forces assaulted the downtown positions of troops loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi April 20, briefly forcing them back over a key bridge and trapping several in a building that rebel troops surrounded, firing on the rebels from upper-floor positions instead of surrendering.  Fighting continues between Libyan government forces that have surrounded the city and anti-government rebels ensconced there.  (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
Rebel fighters are seen in downtown Misurata, Libya, on April 20, 2011. Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Joe Biden has said that he always internally opposed the Obama administration’s decision to intervene in Libya. In a 2016 interview on PBS, Biden told host Charlie Rose that from the outset, he had expressed concerns that the war would create a vacuum in Libya that would be filled by extremists. He also said there had been insufficient planning for what the country would look like after Muammar Gaddafi had been deposed.

At the beginning of the NATO-led intervention in 2011, several months after the uprising in Libya had begun, Biden publicly indicated that the U.S. should step back from involvement and that NATO should handle the war on its own. “If the Lord Almighty extricated the U.S. out of NATO and dropped it on the planet of Mars so we were no longer participating, it is bizarre to suggest that NATO and the rest of the world lacks the capacity to deal with Libya — it does not,” Biden said. “This is about our strategic interest, and it is not based upon a situation of what can the traffic bear politically at home.”

Despite this reticence, once Gaddafi was killed in the fall of 2011, Biden said that NATO had “got it right” in Libya, even describing the war as a model. “In this case, America spent $2 billion and didn’t lose a single life,” Biden said. “This is more the prescription for how to deal with the world as we go forward than it has in the past.” In a CNN interview, Biden spoke about Gaddafi, saying, “This is one bad guy, one really tough guy. He for 40 years had his folks under his thumb. And he’s dead, and it’s going to give the people of Libya the first chance in four decades to actually put together their own government, have a little bit of freedom. Little bit of opportunity.”

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