For No One

Admiral Mullen explains what has happened and what is expected in Libya.  The mission has been to degrade the Libyan offensive capability and not necessarily to overthrow Gaddafi.

“We have halted him in the vicinity of Benghazi, which is where he was most recently on the march,” he said, adding that Western forces had established combat air patrols over the city that would be extended westward toward Tripoli over time.

Mullen said Western military operations are narrowly focused on protecting civilians and aiding humanitarian efforts….

France sent an aircraft carrier toward Libya and its planes were over the country again on Sunday, defense officials said. Britain said its planes had targeted Libya’s air defenses mainly around the capital Tripoli.

Italian aircraft are ready to join operations against Libya starting Sunday, Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said.

In the next few days, Mullen said, the United States expects to relinquish its leadership of the operation, dubbed “Odyssey Dawn.” But he did not say who would assume the lead.

Byron York is wondering about the “taking the lead” part too. He argues that the basic fact that America has most of the hard power implies that it ought to be giving orders, not pretending to take them, or worse, actually taking them.

Clinton’s two key statements: ‘We did not lead this” and “America has unique capabilities” are not consistent with each other. Because of America’s unique capabilities, it is in fact leading the Libyan effort.

That became entirely clear in Gortney’s briefing. “In these early days, the operation will be under the operational command of General Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command,” Gortney told reporters at the Pentagon. “And the commander of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, which is the name of this operation, is Admiral Sam Locklear, who is embarked on board USS Mount Whitney in the Mediterranean.”

The United States, Gortney stressed, is in full charge of the Libya operation. Although Gortney said there would be an “eventual transition of leadership to a coalition commander in the coming days,” he also added: “That said, the U.S. military has and will continue to use our unique capabilities to create the conditions from which we and our partners can best enforce the full measure of the U.N. mandate.” …

Gortney offered no details on how long the period of “coming days” might be. But he did offer details on just how much of the Libya operation is being borne by U.S. forces. Early in the briefing, Gortney said the attack involved “110 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from both U.S. and British ships and submarines.” Later, a reporter asked: “Can you specify how many British ships were involved compared to the U.S. ships?”

“We had one British submarine,” Gortney said.

“And the rest were all U.S.?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Gortney’s briefing made clear that the United States is not only leading the Libya operation but is virtually the only force involved in the operation. With America’s “unique capabilities,” it could hardly be any other way. And few Americans would want U.S. forces to go into combat under anything other than U.S. command. But why would the Secretary of State step onto the world stage and announce, “We did not lead this”?

Why? Either because Washington wants someone else to hold the bag, which won’t prevent most of the left from repeating “it’s America’s fault,” or Hillary will not regard the unilateral use of force unless authorized by the UN to be legitimate. In this view, maybe America can only use its armed forces when somebody else lets it — and it cannot even decline to use its forces if the UN wants it to. The problem is, to what end? As Alex Spillius of the Daily Telegraph notes, the end isn't necessarily the end of Gaddafi.

Adm Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the outcome of military action from the air was "very uncertain" and made it clear that Washington did not see the goal of Operation Odyssey Dawn as removing the Libyan leader from power.

Opening up the possibility of a rift between the US and Britain and France if the Gaddafi regime does not crumble quickly, he said: "The goals are limited. It's not about seeing him go. It's about supporting the United Nations resolution which talked about eliminating his ability to kill his own people."

Adm Mullen said it was "certainly potentially one outcome" that the mission could succeed while leaving Col Gaddafi in power.

Got that? After the smoke clears, the Duck could still be quacking and the president could say, "Mission accomplished." So what was it for? It is well to remember that publics came out of the First World War vowing an end to “secret diplomacy” — arrangements by which an unelected transnational elite could redraw the map of Europe in the world; making commitments without reference to their national parliaments and political systems.