I’m not at all sure what the best course is for the U.S. so far as Libya is concerned, but the London Spectator’s Alex Massie is right to highlight the key public difference between the Cameron/Sarkozy approach and that of the Obama administration:
Regime change may not be an explicit part of the UN resolution but let’s not pretend it’s not a large part of the objective here. It’s a mark of the American hesitancy – see Josh Rogin on the administration’s internal debate – that Obama won’t mention regime change. But when the operation sprawls (as seems quite possible) the Obama administration may regret its failure to be entirely clear (or honest?) about this mission’s goals. Then again, perhaps they’re still trying to figure out what these goals are. The Prime Minister, of course, was wise enough to leave himself with some wriggle room, but whereas Tony Blair was often keen to play down the regime change aspect of the Iraq War, here the situation is reversed: the UK is happy to say that getting rid of Gaddafi is part of the plan and it’s the Americans who, sensing a restless, unpersuaded public, are keen to stress the formal, limited nature of the operation.
But a choice will have to be made at some point since it seems unlikely that the Prime Minister and the President can both be right.
Strategic ambiguity? Maybe, but it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that what we’re seeing here is a Micawber strategy, the fingers-crossed hope that something will turn up.