When the war in Libya began, the U.S. government convinced a large number of war supporters that we were there to achieve the very limited goal of creating a no-fly zone in Benghazi to protect civilians from air attacks, while President Obama specifically vowed that “broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.” This no-fly zone was created in the first week, yet now, almost three months later, the war drags on without any end in sight, and NATO is no longer even hiding what has long been obvious: that its real goal is exactly the one Obama vowed would not be pursued — regime change through the use of military force. We’re in Libya to forcibly remove Gaddafi from power and replace him with a regime that we like better, i.e., one that is more accommodating to the interests of the West. That’s not even a debatable proposition at this point.
What I suppose is debatable, in the most generous sense of that term, is our motive in doing this. Why — at a time when American political leaders feel compelled to advocate politically radioactive budget cuts to reduce the deficit and when polls show Americans solidly and increasingly opposed to the war — would the U.S. Government continue to spend huge sums of money to fight this war? Why is President Obama willing to endure self-evidently valid accusations — even from his own Party — that he’s fighting an illegal war by brazenly flouting the requirements for Congressional approval? Why would Defense Secretary Gates risk fissures by so angrily and publicly chiding NATO allies for failing to build more Freedom Bombs to devote to the war? And why would we, to use the President’s phrase, “stand idly by” while numerous other regimes — including our close allies in Bahrain and Yemen and the one in Syria — engage in attacks on their own people at least as heinous as those threatened by Gaddafi, yet be so devoted to targeting the Libyan leader?