All of a sudden, we’re going to be at war in Libya — excuse me, acting kinetic-militarily — until Col. Moammar Gadhafi is out of power. This is the same Gadhafi who, at last check, was on his way to a thorough defeat of the rebels.
We learn this turn of events not from a presidential address to Congress, but from reading an op-ed President Obama co-authored with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy:
Our duty and our mandate under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that. It is not to remove Qaddafi by force. But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power. The International Criminal Court is rightly investigating the crimes committed against civilians and the grievous violations of international law. It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government. The brave citizens of those towns that have held out against forces that have been mercilessly targeting them would face a fearful vengeance if the world accepted such an arrangement. It would be an unconscionable betrayal.
Furthermore, it would condemn Libya to being not only a pariah state, but a failed state too. Qaddafi has promised to carry out terrorist attacks against civilian ships and airliners. And because he has lost the consent of his people any deal that leaves him in power would lead to further chaos and lawlessness. We know from bitter experience what that would mean. Neither Europe, the region, or the world can afford a new safe haven for extremists.
There is a pathway to peace that promises new hope for the people of Libya — a future without Qaddafi that preserves Libya’s integrity and sovereignty, and restores her economy and the prosperity and security of her people. This needs to begin with a genuine end to violence, marked by deeds not words. The regime has to pull back from the cities it is besieging, including Ajdabiya, Misurata and Zintan, and return to their barracks. However, so long as Qaddafi is in power, NATO must maintain its operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds. Then a genuine transition from dictatorship to an inclusive constitutional process can really begin, led by a new generation of leaders. In order for that transition to succeed, Qaddafi must go and go for good. At that point, the United Nations and its members should help the Libyan people as they rebuild where Qaddafi has destroyed — to repair homes and hospitals, to restore basic utilities, and to assist Libyans as they develop the institutions to underpin a prosperous and open society. (emphasis added)
While Obama has been calling on Gadhafi to leave power voluntarily, this is quite a turnabout from a military standpoint. A no-fly zone alone won’t get this done; unless Gadhafi suddenly decides he’s losing after all, there will almost certainly have to be boots on the ground. The rebels have been losing badly, and there are even questions about the efficacy of the non-U.S.-led NATO coalition. It’s a particularly strange turnabout given that there are also increasing questions as to whether the situation in Libya was as bad as Obama led on before the war began.
So, to recap: We lost precious weeks waiting for U.N. approval to act in Libya and, now that the cost of that delay is coming to bear, we’re going to commit to an even more-kinetic military action to make up for the lost time — while apparently going beyond the U.N. approval that previously was considered so critical.
Why do I not feel reassured about the way this is heading?
– By Kyle Wingfield