To be clear, I deserve perhaps more blame for being late to blog about Libya than the international community does for starting the campaign 22 days into this. Readers: when was the last time the international community took less than a month to start a significant multilateral military campaign to address a humanitarian crisis that involved combat? Anyone?
I am not that surprised that there is confusion over the intent of the mission. This NYT piece suggests surprise that the US and others might desire to remove Qaddafi, when the UN resolution and some of the statements suggest this is just about trying to protect the rebels. Um, how do you do one without the other? Qaddafi is not going to step down and walk away. Regime change is an essential part of it it as that is their demand, and any other demand depends on it.
Sure, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says that the intent is supporting the UN mission, but about the possibility of success w/o Qaddafi remaining in power: “That’s certainly potentially one outcome.” That is not a ringing endorsement of non-regime change.
There may be fudging going on here, but that has to do with keeping the coalition together (I guess), international law (almost certainly) and expectations management (absolutely). The Republicans and the Arab League seem to be on the same page: do something!!! Anything!!! Now!! But perhaps not that!!!
I think Obama is right for letting the Europeans appear to be in the lead, given that this is, otherwise, the third war the US has started against the leadership of a country in the Middle East.
Yes, it would have been easier earlier, but getting all the pieces in place takes time. I have been surprised, especially since NATO is not seemingly in the lead, how many attacks have happened so soon. Not just French and British planes, but American, Italian, Canadian and Danish ones seem to be in on the action or about to be so. No President can wave a magic wand to get this to happen so fast. Only a unilateral US effort could have been quick, and I think we have had enough unilateral US efforts in that part of the world over the past ten years. Once again, Bush foreign policy constrains the choices of his successor.
Oh, and one last thought: if we had any doubt that Kerry was an incredibly poor choice for the Democrats, that should be wiped out now. What a tool.
And a couple of questions: what is NATO's role here? Someone is coordinating all of this--the French? The British? If the Danish and Italians are flying planes towards Libya, NATO is involved. And if we are hitting the government's vehicles as these pics suggest, who is providing the targeting info? Special Forces on the ground? Just air assets?