Obama Says Lack of Planning in Libya the ‘Worst Mistake’ of His Presidency

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Obama Discusses U.S. Supreme Court At University Of Chicago Law School
If there's one thing Obama has learned, it's that planning is essential.Photo: Joshua Lott/2016 Getty Images

Being president for almost eight years means Barack Obama has had ample time to reflect on what went well and what went wrong during his time in office, and on Sunday, he shared his self-evaluation with Fox News. Asked what he thought his “worst mistake” was as president, Obama said it was the lack of planning after the fall of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

Failing to plan for the day after what I think was the right thing to do in intervening in Libya” was “probably” his biggest regret as president, Obama told Fox’s Chris Wallace.

Following the U.S.-led coalition’s intervention, Libya has spiraled into chaos, and it’s not the first time Obama has expressed his regrets about the situation there. Earlier this month he told The Atlantic that, despite the fact that the plan “went as well as [he] could have expected,” Libya is still “a mess,” which he attributed to flimsy allies and the extent of tribal division in the country.

Today that “mess” involves hundreds of missing anti-aircraft missiles that disappeared shortly after Qaddafi’s downfall, warring governmental factions, and an influx of migrants for which Libya is nowhere near prepared to deal with. The chaos has allowed ISIS to gain a foothold in the country, and U.S. intelligence forces say at least some of the missiles are probably in ISIS custody.

That’s a lesson I now apply when we’re asked to intervene militarily,” Obama said. “Do we have a plan for the day after?”