I’m struggling to develop real convictions about this Libya business. On the one hand, you have everything done right—a UN Security Council resolution, backing from the Arab League and the OIC, and a bad guy who is, loosely speaking, adequately nuts to seemingly put everyone off. Meanwhile Gaddafi was acting yesterday like he was begging for this to happen, explicitly discussing the looming slaughter after he seizes Benghazi and making it hard for anyone to vote no on the resolution.
But it seems absurd to be saying we need a domestic discretionary spending freeze because somehow we’re broke and yet there’s plenty of funds available for a shiny new war in Libya. And it’s a war whose objectives seem hazy. To halt Gaddafi’s advances and de facto partition the country? To chase Gaddafi all the way out? If that happens, does “the Pottery Barn rule” apply and then we need to spend a decade supervising the country’s domestic political conflicts? And why is this humanitarian emergency the one that needs urgent action? What about Saudi and Bahraini forces firing on demonstrators? What about the ongoing civil war in Ivory Coast where the health care system has completely collapsed? I feel like the countries that abstained at the UN—Brazil, India, China, Russia, Germany—mostly got this right, no eagerness to actually undertake a war but no willingness to condemn those who were. At the moment, it’s not really even clear what the United States has committed to do. It’s France and the UK who seem most eager to definitively commit military assets, and as far as I’m concerned the less of a leadership role the US takes in this the better since the endgame seems so murky.