The Corner

Into the Libyan Labyrinth

We should watch for some very strange things in Libya in the days ahead: (a) Euros bet on the wrong rebel horse, and if Qaddafi survives, he will surely “renegotiate” his massive oil exports to Europe, or perhaps prefer to deal with the Chinese. So Britain, Italy, and France will become increasing panicky and want us to ratchet things up. (b) Expect to hear less and less about the UN and the Arab League as Obama, to win, needs more and more to ignore their restrictions on using American ground troops and direct bombing of Libya’s assets. (c) Expect the Left to get increasingly antsy as it weighs the viability of Obama’s progressive domestic agenda versus their own humiliation at having to keep still and support a preemptive bombing campaign against a Muslim, Arab, oil-exporting nation, without congressional approval, that was not a national-security threat to the U.S. The Left is going to have to accept Obama’s rendering inoperative the UN and Arab League restrictions when he inserts some ground troops or orders some Milosevic-like bombing. His supporters also will have to endure the fact that Obama’s prior pledges of “turning over” and “toning down” a war that we would supposedly fight neither on the ground nor by sustained aerial bombardment are simply untrue — and this on top of everything from the now jim-dandy Guantanamo and A-OK renditions. (d) We are quickly evolving beyond the choices of both a Mogadishu- or Beirut-like clean skedaddle and a 12-year-Iraq-like-no-fly-zone humanitarian mission, and most likely are considering either bombing Qaddafi like crazy or sending in some troops or both.

Bottom line: It is always a dangerous thing for a president to start a war without Congress, without a consistent mission, without a coherent methodology, without a plausible end game, and without a clue who our rebel allies are or just how strong their opponent actually might be — contingent on a fickle UN, impotent but oil-enthused allies, and a passive-aggressive Arab world, all to prove a point that we could reinvent our military into a humanitarian rescue force, subordinate to international unelected bodies — and all the more dangerous during the golfing, basketball-playoffs, and resort seasons.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.

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