At least, we’ll find out in the figurative sense; the United Nations Security Council has authorized “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan rebels from the forces of Muammar Qaddafi. There has been almost no public deliberation about this, and no effort to rally the American people behind the concept of military action. If the effort by the Bush Administration to convince us of the need for regime change in Iraq was a “rush to war,” then this is a headlong sprint. With jetpacks, in the event that the sprinting pace slackens.
Greg Scoblete makes a good point with the following observation:
[Getting UN approval] doesn’t make much sense to me. If the administration believes that waging war against Gaddafi is in America’s national interest, then it should do so irrespective of UN sanction. If the administration does not believe that waging war against Gaddafi is in America’s interest, it should not do so anyway simply because the UN has authorized it. Having the UN Security Council authorize punitive measures against Gaddafi’s regime doesn’t suddenly transform the conflict from a peripheral interest to a central one.
I suppose that the Administration wanted to make sure that it would be as fully and completely innocent of any charges of “unilateralism” as possible, but other than saying “we aren’t the Bush Administration!”, there really is little point to this over-reliance on UN sanction.
For those wondering just how broad the scope of the UN resolution is, Robert Chesney has a good rundown on the issue. And Jack Goldsmith rightfully wonders whether the actions of President Obama will live up to the demands of Senator Obama.
For my part, I am still trying to figure out what national security interests we have in this fight. The moral case is powerful, of course, but if moral cases alone would suffice, we would be involved in dozens of wars. There is no exit plan whatsoever, and there appear to be no red lines regarding our military involvement. I wish all who will direct and participate in any military action against Qaddafi all of the luck in the world, but no one ought to be sanguine about the way in which we have entered this conflict, or our prospects for getting out of it cleanly. About the best thing the United States has going for it is the strength and potency of the American military. If only the mission were as clear as the American military is powerful.