At Patterico a relevant question has been asked concerning Libya that is not being asked enough concerning president Obama’s decision to go to war in Libya.
But before we hammer the President too hard, ask yourself a simple question. Is he right, right now? Forget what he said when he represented one of the most liberal jurisdictions in America, but is he right, right now?
The answer: It depends on how you look at it.
If you look at is in terms of preventing a slaughter, then yes. Our actions prevented an immediate slaughter and are thus worthwhile in the short term. The trick will be to keep it from becoming a bigger slaughter in the long term.
If you look at it in terms of dealing with troublemakers then perhaps. As a general rule if you have a chance to get rid of an enemy (Gaddafi) one should take the opportunity, however the time to have acted was when the rebels were outside of Tripoli not when Gaddafi was outside of Benghazi.
If you look at it in terms of national interest then frankly the answer is No. The rebels who are fighting him seem to also be fighting us elsewhere. If we give over Libya to a different set of enemies they can use that state to sponsor war against us. This is a very bad idea. Additionally historically we have gotten little payback when we have stuck our necks out for Arab countries in general.
All of this is pretty moot now that we are in, WE ARE IN. The real question is what will be the result of our actions. Here are the three possible results
#1. Gaddafi wins: I think this is the least likely outcome. As long as there is some kind of no-fly zone it becomes a ground fight, Benghazi can still fall but if his armor heads toward Tobruk it is very vulnerable from the air. If the west is willing to take out his tanks and armor then Gaddafi can’t finish the job. Of course if the west gets cold feet this goes from the least likely outcome to the most likely outcome, but I think that England and France have too much invested for them to let this happen.
#2 The Rebels win: This has a better chance of happening because you can’t be sure how loyal the forces supporting Gaddafi are. As long as the money holds out the hired guns from the south will stay loyal, but the loss of air superiority makes a huge difference. Of course it’s also a question of taking back cities held by the government which I think is not possible unless Gaddafi and his sons are dead. The question becoming if the rebels win, will they be grateful or will they use the new Libya as an Islamic state to support our foes internationally?
#3 The partition/administration of Libya. Almost certainly the final result. The west without US leadership doesn’t have the staying power or the willingness to actually win the war or commit the ground troops necessary to do so. Sans such will the end result will be a deal to save face for the west that allows Gaddafi’s family in charge of the east where his tribe lives and the rebels in charge of the west. That allows Gaddafi to claim a victory over the west while the west claims success in its mission even as the east is purged of supporters of the rebellion.
And of course this result is the worst of all possible results for the US. We will have a Gaddafi family looking for revenge by proxy in the east while in the west the rebels, who never liked us in the first place, will blame us for the failure to take the country and the purge of their supporters in the east. Since they were already supporting wars against us they will now have a nation to do so with, and it will be a nation “supported’ by the UN.
This is a mess full of bad choices and results. We can only hope it is done wisely.