What’s the Goal in Libya?

The international community authorized military action against Libya, and now leaders all over the world are speaking out against it.  Socialist South Americans Daniel Ortega, Evo Morales, and Hugo Chavez have condemned the bombings, suggesting that Western nations just want Libya’s oil (the “war for oil” argument is getting tired).  Wannabe Soviet strongman Vladamir Putin, never one to mince words when it comes to anti-Americanism, said the Libya intervention resembles the Crusades.

Of course, these people are anti-American, which is why they are coming out against the bombing of Libya by the U.S. Military.  But patriotic Americans are also coming out against the Libya campaign, although with more reasoned analysis. Retired Lt. General Tom McInerney, who now works as a military analyst for Fox News, believes that America has been “snookered” into fighting a war in Libya.  You can view the video of his appearance on “America’s Newsroom” here.

And Mr. McInerney is not alone.  Many are questioning America’s role in the Libya mission, codenamed “Operation Odyssey Dawn,” as well as our goal.  Are we going to take out Gaddafi?  The U.N. Charter makes it clear that U.N. military operations are not allowed to take people out of power, just stop them from committing atrocities.  That doesn’t mean Gaddafi won’t pay for his sins, just that the military operation cannot have the goal of installing a new leader.

Anyway, a lot of people are wondering what the goal is.  No one seems to know.  The only answers you get are statements that mean nothing.  The Washington Post has a good story that reflects this:

The prominent role played by the United States in carrying out and commanding the initial coalition attacks on Libya appeared to extend far beyond President Obama’s description of a narrow mission in which U.S. forces would play only a supporting part.

Senior U.S. military officials continued Sunday to describe the U.S. involvement as “limited” in extent and duration. They emphasized plans to relinquish command and control responsibilities to coalition partners within days. They repeated Obama’s pledge that no U.S. ground troops would be deployed.

But administration officials and military leaders came under a barrage of questions — raised by members of Congress, outside experts and reporters — about the parameters of U.S. participation and the operation’s goals, especially if Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi does not capitulate.

“There have been lots of options which have been discussed, but I think it’s very uncertain how this ends,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged on CBS’s “Face the Nation.’’

Mullen, who appeared on five television talk shows, was pressed repeatedly to define the mission and its objectives. “I think circumstances will drive where this goes in the future,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.’’

Could it end with Gaddafi remaining in power? “That’s certainly, potentially, one outcome,” Mullen said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” using language he repeated in other interviews. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say we’re not going to have airplanes over Libya in three or four days.”

Adm. Mullen basically said nothing in the five interviews he gave.  He would have been better off just sitting in the chair in silence.

A lot of people have noticed that the goals are not clearly defined, nor is America’s role in achieving those goals. Jed Babbin, writing for The American Spectator, is one of those people:

But what are we attempting to accomplish in Libya? Obama and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen have made it clear that we are not trying to remove Gaddafi and only want to protect Libyan civilians from him. And Obama has said that our commitment will last only for days or weeks. So what is the end state that President Obama’s strategy is designed to achieve?

A quick survey of Obama’s Middle East seems to reveal a region as unstable as it has been since Messrs. Sikes and Picot met to divvy up the remnants of the Ottoman Empire in 1916. Looking a bit deeper, we see that Obama’s doctrine is destabilizing the Middle Eastern nations that are at best unreliably aligned with us while our principal enemies — the terror-sponsoring nations such as Iran and Syria — are unaffected by his ministrations.

European liberals and Islamists around the world are rejoicing at President Obama’s decision to renounce leadership and commit American military power in UN-sanctioned action against Gaddafi’s forces. They rejoice because Obama has granted the achievement of their ultimate goal: American foreign policy and the employment of American military power have been subordinated to the whims and caprices of their multilateralism.

Progress since President Obama began his campaign to remake our relationship with the Arab world is measured in these facts: Saudi Arabia managed to crush nascent internal protests and send tanks to Bahrain to prop up the latter’s own little despotism. Libya, Yemen and Tunisia are aflame. Egypt is hanging on the edge, holding a post-revolutionary constitutional referendum and Iraq is caught between Maliki’s strongman ambitions and al-Sadr’s Iran-funded Shiite supremacy. Lebanon’s Hizballah — also Iran-funded and armed — is being used as a deterrent against an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Among the loudest lobbyists for the UN action and U.S. intervention in Libya were the Saudis and the Arab League. Having failed to get the Arab League to take military action on its own — and fearing that Iran was behind the unrest in Bahrain and Libya — the Saudis were calling for quick action by the UN. The Arab League blessed the idea of a no-fly zone over Libya but weren’t willing to provide their own air forces to help.

Obama’s presidency was predicated on the evils of unilateral American action and repairing our broken relations with the Islamic world. But he has now intervened in a Middle Eastern civil war. Yet our Libyan war, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, isn’t aimed at our principal enemies — the terror-sponsors in Iran, Syria and — yes, Saudi Arabia — which weren’t the focus of President Bush’s nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan and aren’t now the focus of Obama’s new military action.

The piece is really long, so I didn’t read the whole thing, but he pretty much sums things up well.  Why are we getting involved?  I want to take out Gaddafi as much as the next guy, but this war, or whatever you want to call it, apparently isn’t taking out Gaddafi!  Whose idea was that?!  Gaddafi should have been taken out decades ago.

Hopefully Gaddafi will pay for all the horrible things he has done over the many decades of his rule, but I’m still not sure we have made it a goal to make him pay.  I really don’t know what our goal is.  I’m not sure Obama knows.

UPDATE: Newsweek’s Niall Ferguson has an interesting take on things.  He even quotes Shakespeare:

Waving both the Libyan and French flags on March 17 in Benghazi.

“If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly.” Macbeth’s famous line before he kills Duncan came to mind last week, when President Obama belatedly changed his mind about military intervention in Libya. Like Obama, Macbeth fervently hopes that “this blow might be the be-all and the end-all”:

But in these cases … we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return

To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice

Commends the ingredients of our poison’d chalice

To our own lips.

The president has been more Hamlet than Macbeth since the beginning of the revolutionary crisis that has swept the desert lands of North Africa and the Middle East. To act or not to act? That has been the question. The results of his indecision have been unhappy. Hosni Mubarak, for so long an American ally, has been overthrown in Egypt. Muammar Gaddafi, the erstwhile sponsor of terrorism so foolishly rehabilitated by the West just four years ago, has—until now—lived to fight another day in Libya. Meanwhile, in Bahrain, another insurrection is being quelled with the help of Saudi Arabia—an American ally even more important than Libya.

Obama, a novice in foreign affairs, is a president without a strategy. Once a critic of American military intervention in the Middle East, once a skeptic about the chances of democratizing the region, he now finds himself with a poisoned chalice in each hand. In one there are the dregs of the last administration’s interventions: military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan that he is eager to wind down. In the other is a freshly poured draft of his own making.

Make no mistake. Whatever the wording of the United Nations Security Council resolution, the United States is now at war with the Libyan government, and the aim of this war is the overthrow of Gaddafi. In the words of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “If you don’t get him out and if you don’t support the opposition and he stays in power, there’s no telling what he will do.” She doubtless remembers more clearly than Obama what happened in Bosnia, when her husband took years to approve effective military intervention. Had she been president, my guess is we’d have taken swifter action. But in this play, she’s Lady Macbeth, urging Obama to get tough.

This was the right thing to do. Was. But it should have been done weeks ago, when it first became clear that Gaddafi, unlike Mubarak, was able and willing to unleash military force against his opponents. Now, with loyalist forces approaching the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, it may well be too late. It certainly seems unlikely that an exclusively aerial intervention in Libya’s civil war can topple the mad dog of Tripoli. And even if it’s still possible to tip the balance in favor of the rebels, then what? When the news of the no-fly zone reached Benghazi last week, it was relayed from mosque loudspeakers, and the crowds responded with cries of “Allahu akbar!” not “God bless America!” Significantly, the rebel spokesman quoted by The New York Times was an imam.

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