Bottom line: per Reuters, 20 minutes or so ago, an anonymous US source announces that a five-nation alliance is beginning military action to cripple Libyan air defense, and keep Gaddafi from bombing his own people. The five nations are the US, France, Britain, Canada and Italy. Apart from Italy's participation, this is hardly news. We are a little more interested by the claim that "At least some Arab nations are expected to join the coalition later." Call when that happens, but pardon us if we won't hold our breath.
We're a bit foggy about the long-term plan here, and apparently we're not the only ones.
Now, look. We've said already that Gaddafi is a creep, and both Libya and the world will be better off without him. That's not the question. The question is whether it is in the best interests of the United States to kick him out. We don't have an easy answer.
There is a part of us that believes, deeply, that it is always in the interest of free nations to oppose tyrants. On the other hand ....
A few weeks ago, we were talking with an Egyptian journalist, about the situation in his own country. He was -- to say the least -- peeved with Obama's handling of the transition there, on the curiously paradoxical grounds that the president said the wrong thing and said it too late. The "wrong thing," in this case, was the remark, apparently delivered by a White House spokesman, that "Mubarak must go." This hardly seems off-target, and indeed our Egyptian friend claims t have said the same thing, often, for many years. His objection was that the toppling of the Mubarak regime was Egypt's own business, and that Egypt should be left to handle it.
We don't quite agree with the guy, mind you. First off, this was an opinion, not an order, and countries are always offering unasked-for opinions about each other's internal affairs. As long as they don't roll the tanks, who really cares? And, second, we do believe there are times when a timely foreign intervention may be a very good thing -- Rwanda might have turned out differently, after all.
Still, our friend was all but spitting in our face as we spoke. He was very, very excited about this, and even if we disagree with him on some of the substance, we have to take seriously his sense of outrage. The United States has spent down most of its capital in the Muslim world, and there is precious little that we can do -- with our military -- to reclaim it.
So, honestly, we wish that Europe were handling this on its own. For that matter, we wish that the Arabs would handle it by their own dang selves. We've sold our Saudi masters an awful lot of high-end aircraft over the years; wouldn't this have been a swell time for them to see some action?
Still. The guy has been bombing his own people. And, frankly, Lockerbie. So we shed no real tears over this, and will certainly shed none of Gaddafi's eventual departure from the scene. Anyway, we expect it's academic by now. If we launched the F-22s an hour ago, it's a safe bet that Libya no longer has any air defenses. [UPDATE: We didn't send F-22s, we sent Tomahawk missiles. Same outcome.]