Friday, April 01, 2011

The Horns of the Minotaur

At NRO, Victor Davis Hanson summarizes the dangers that the United States faces now that we have entered Into the Libyan Labyrinth:

Bottom line: It is always a dangerous thing for a president to start a war without Congress, without a consistent mission, without a coherent methodology, without a plausible end game, and without a clue who our rebel allies are or just how strong their opponent actually might be — contingent on a fickle UN, impotent but oil-enthused allies, and a passive-aggressive Arab world, all to prove a point that we could reinvent our military into a humanitarian rescue force, subordinate to international unelected bodies — and all the more dangerous during the golfing, basketball-playoffs, and resort seasons.

The questions of whether we ever should have gotten military involved in Libya at all or if we should have committed to action much sooner are open to debate. But now that we are in, we must find some way of securing something that resembles a victory however difficult to define that may be. The worst possible situation is for the US is to send its military to intervene and then be viewed by the world as having lost, even if the result has little strategic impact as in the case of Somalia. Better to not intervene in the first place than to go in without having a clear objective of what we want to achieve.

It now seems clear that even with air support, the ragtag rebels battling Gaddafi--mostly nothing more than machine gun toting teenagers in Toyotas--can not overthrow the regime militarily. And even if they could, it's not clear that we would necessarily want them to given the background of at least some of their members.

So now what? We're at a stalemate with Gaddafi. While we can try to claim that our actions have prevented massacres and untold civilian casualties, if Gaddafi remains in power there is no way to spin this as anything but a defeat for the US and our allies. The only way to avoid this outcome is to up the ante by committing the necessary NATO forces--including some component of ground troops--to finish the job. Chances of President Obama being willing to go all in to win? Slim to none.

We're going to be wandering around this maze for some time.