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Obama's Big Foreign Policy Regret? Gadhafi

Not the ousting of him, but its aftermath, he tells Thomas Friedman
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 9, 2014 7:12 AM CDT

(Newser) – In a wide-ranging interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, the president reveals what might be his biggest regret in foreign policy: Libya. Obama says the US made the right move in joining the coalition to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi, but it didn't do enough to manage the chaos that followed. "So that’s a lesson that I now apply every time I ask the question, ‘Should we intervene, militarily? Do we have an answer [for] the day after?’" Obama says the latest US intervention—airstrikes in Iraq against militants from the Islamic State—is "unique" because of the threat of "genocide" to Iraqis.

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But, he added, "I don’t want to be in the business of being the Iraqi air force." He again pushed Iraq to create a more inclusive government because he says a winner-takes-all approach is doomed to fail. And that holds lessons for both Israel and the US: “Our politics are dysfunctional,” he says. "Societies don’t work if political factions take maximalist positions. And the more diverse the country is, the less it can afford to take maximalist positions.” Click to read the full interview, in which he dismisses as "fantasy" the notion that arming Syrian opposition forces early would have prevented much of the current violence in both Syria and Iraq. (Read more President Obama stories.)

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