It is hard to know what made the greatest contribution to the fiasco that the administration’s Libyan policy has become: The debilitating delay that transformed a relatively easy mission into a hard one, or the current confusion about the goals of our intervention, the source of its legitimacy, and a strategy for success. The president refused to act when the rebels had momentum, when supplying them with weapons (and possibly a no-fly zone imposed from off-shore with stand-off weapons) might have enabled them to prevail over the Qaddafi regime. But by the time the administration got the international support without which it was unwilling to act, Qaddafi’s army was on the verge of destroying the opposition, and rescuing it required a vastly larger intervention, including a direct attack on Qaddafi’s bases and mechanized units. But whether late is better than never depends on the outcome, and that is anything but certain. The U. S. general commanding the Libyan operation said today that he could imagine completing his mission with Qaddafi (and sons) still in control of Libya, which, if the mission is to protect the Libyan people, could be decades away. General Ham’s pusillanimous goal (presumably that of the President) is more likely to anger than inspire the opposition – and so it should – with the result that we could find it all but impossible to extricate ourselves from a prolonged and bloody civil war. No good deed so ill-conceived can hope to escape punishment.
March 21, 2011 - 9:04 pm