I expected a muddle in Libya, but this exceeds my expectations. It’s bizarre to have a U.S. president putting the U.S. military at the service of a goal of the “international community” (merely protection of the population) rather than at the service of his own stated goal (the end of Qaddafi’s regime).
We’re engaged in mincing definitional games about when we’ll target the Libyan military and when a rebel is a civilian worthy of protection and when he isn’t. I’d think at the very least we’d be hitting what we can of Qaddafi’s ground assets in and around Ajdabiya, Misrata, and Zawiya, given that it was an unconditional demand of President Obama that Qaddafi remove his forces from those places in his speech Friday. That demand seemed to make the most minimal goal of the military campaign rolling Qaddafi back from all the gains he had made in recent weeks.
Now, who knows? I think I have a higher tolerance for diplomatic opacity than many others in here, but this is ridiculous. As far as the broader goal in Libya, as I write today, I don’t think we can hope for much besides the ouster of Qaddafi. If we succeed in toppling Qaddafi, it won’t be any great victory for reformers in the region, and the post-Qaddafi dispensation will likely to be messy at best with only one thing to recommend it — no Qaddafi.