The Campaign Spot

Whatever Our Policy on Libya Is, Let’s Be Honest About It

The no-fly zone is now a moot point, not merely because of the advances of Qaddafi’s forces on the ground, but because the one country that could seriously enact them does not wish to do so:

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports from Cairo that there is “no U.S. support” from the State Department for a no-fly zone over Libya, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton instead saying that the proposal must go to the United Nations, where it is expected to face opposition from Russia and China.

Meeting with Clinton last night in Paris, Libyan rebels asked the Secretary to launch airstrikes against three airfields, to offer military aid, and to implement a no fly-zone, Mitchell reports.

But the United States is not going to meet those demands, according to an off-camera read out after that meeting — the highest-level contact to date between the administration and the Libyan rebels.

So that’s that. Barring a change in the administration’s postion, the outcome is now not really in doubt; at some point, Qaddafi’s forces will surround the opposition and begin meting out punishment; it will, in all likelihood, be horrific.

President Obama’s actions since the Libyan instability began — er, instability in the country, not in Qaddafi — suggest that he believes that there is no compelling U.S. interest in toppling Qaddafi and his regime. That may or may not be the case; I tend to disagree.* But if Obama believes that who rules from Tripoli has no real significance to our interests, and no massacre in Libya is large enough to compel him to risk the lives of U.S. servicemen, then he should say so. Subterfuge is necessary in the world if intelligence-gathering and opacity is sometimes a necessity in diplomacy, but at this point, it appears that our policy is to pretend to be willing to take actions that everyone else can see that we are not.

We have a president who declares that “the noose is tightening” at the precise moment that the circumstances are the opposite, in a manner that all the world can see.

* My thoughts, in a brief nutshell: The world is a nasty and brutal enough place as is, with the precedent that acts of brutality in places like the Balkans or the Middle East or lower Manhattan and northern Virginia may suddenly trigger the leader of the free world to take the leash off of the most effective military force on the planet in missions of retribution, prevention, or mercy. If you do not like the world as it is, imagine one in which the Gaddafis and Saddam Husseins and Mullah Omars and Slobodon Milosevics and Kim Jong Ils know that there is no chance the U.S. will intervene.


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