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A Few Thoughts on the War with Libya

March 18th, 2011 - 8:39 am

So — Hillary got her war, and despite early promises it’s a real shooting match.

Sorry, I shouldn’t have led with that. Presidents, secretaries of State — they don’t get wars. America gets wars and now we’re in a third one. We got into this one without a strategy I can discern. A couple weeks ago, the president said Gaddafi “must” go, but then worked behind the scenes to prevent a British-led no-fly zone. And doing nothing seemed to be the preferred method of putting some muscle behind the “must,” right up until it wasn’t.

According to The Daily, Clinton led the effort to get the UN resolution, even though there was zero enthusiasm for action in the White House. There wasn’t any enthusiasm to stay out, either — just a dithering president being led around by his secretary of State.

The UN Resolution “demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians.” But apparently Gaddafi didn’t get that message, what with the 25 dead civilians after a bombing run earlier today. A no-fly zone might do a good job of preventing more attacks like that one, but it won’t stop the fighting — only boots on the ground can do that. There’s just one little problem:

The Arab League chief told Reuters on Friday that the U.N. Security Council resolution on Libya was aimed at protecting civilians without backing any invasion, and said he did not want any side “to go too far”.

Last week, the Arab League provided us with the political cover necessary to impose the NFZ. But now the League doesn’t want anyone going “too far.” However, that doesn’t exactly square with the Resolution’s promise to “take all necessary measures” to protect civilians. Of course, the Resolution doesn’t square with itself because that very same sentence finishes by forbidding any “foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.”

Is an “occupation force” different from a “we’re only here for a little while” force? Will the Arab League back that up? Or will the League do what it usually does, and turn and snarl at the West as soon as anything turns sour?

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