In theory, Libya was supposed to save lives, use the military for humanitarianism rather than mere national interests, showcase a new multilateral internationalism, enhance the reputations of organizations like the U.N. and the Arab League, contrast Obama’s careful planning with the plagued Iraqi occupation, reveal Europe as a full strategic partner, and bolster the national-security credentials of the U.S.
As of now, the misadventure has had the opposite effect on all counts: a) More are dying than before, and the “rebels” seem to be treating prisoners in Qaddafi-like fashion, while we are de facto engaged in targeted assassination to achieve regime change. b) While we are committed to a tertiary theater in Libya, there are far more strategically important hot spots like Iran and Syria that do not warrant even a rhetorical broadside, and far more acute humanitarian crises in sub-Saharan Africa. c) How does exceeding the spirit and letter of the U.N. and Arab League authorizations enhance the legitimacy or utility of those organizations? d) After several weeks, can anyone in the administration articulate the exact mission objective, the methodology to achieve it, and the desired outcome and the means to ensure it? e) Europe is being rendered impotent — its Potemkin military forces lacking the American facade that a traditionally U.S.-led and -dominated NATO used to provide; I doubt that it will ever again decide to initiate a military incursion without the assurance of the full resources of the U.S. behind it. f) As of now, I don’t think either Iran or Syria — or anyone else in or out of the region — is awed by U.S. resolve and military dynamism in Libya.