Glenn Greenwald asks an interesting question (emphasis added):
[Advocates of the U.S. attack on Libya say] it’s humane and noble to topple a brutal dictator; using force is the only way to protect parts of the population from slaughter…; it’s not in America’s interests to allow a deranged despot (or his deranged sons) to control a vital oil-rich nation; and removing the tyrant will aid the spread of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Why does that reasoning justify war in Libya but not Iraq?
Of course, this time we have an U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the war (although, curiously, the President failed to get any authorization from Congress). There is pretty good evidence that Gaddafi’s attack on Benghazi would have killed lots of rebels and civilians, and that the Allied air intervention inflicted a tactical defeat on Libyan government forces.
The rest of the situation is murky. The Libya end game is unknown, even in military terms. Air power by itself is almost never decisive on the strategic level (nuclear weapons being the exception). Many members of Congress are probably secretly relieved they didn’t have to vote on this. With the Middle East in an uproar, how will the Libya operation affect Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and other unstable countries?
And so, once again America has attacked an oil-rich Arab state. This time by order of a Democratic commander-in-chief. Whenever I encounter that cliche, “Elections have consequences,” I think I’ll ask for proof. When you look at it substantively, there is just too much bipartisanship in Washington.
UPDATE: This afternoon, NBC News Chief Pentagon Correspondent Jim Miklaszewski said that air strikes on urban areas have been ruled out. Which means stalemate for now, because Gaddafi’s ground forces are positioned in urban areas.
UPDATE: Rebels have pushed Gaddafi’s forces out of Ajdabiya. It’s an achievement, but it still leaves them 500 miles from Tripoli. Even before President Obama goes on TV Monday to tell us what this war is about, mission creep is starting to develop. The “no-fly zone” has already morphed into tactical air support, and the Obama administration is debating whether to send arms and other aid to the rebels. That will necessitate some kind of a ground operation. There have been reports of British special forces already in Libya.
UPDATE: Rebel advance stopped at the outskirts of Sirte by Gaddafi forces.
Without air strikes it appears the rebels are not able to make advances or even hold ground. The battle around Sirte, Gaddafi’s birthplace, will reveal if the rebel advance has reached its limit.