The essential formlessness of the late-Western left’s ideas is being modeled in 3-D in the Libya crisis right now.  Events in Libya are not understood in any detail, and the world’s leading nations can’t decide what to do.  France and Britain are certain that there should be an intervention; Germany is opposed to the idea; Russia and China have spoken against it; the US is looking at all options, a process that has now been underway for three weeks.

In Libya, meanwhile, the reporting that does come out is grim for the rebels. Qaddafi’s forces have retaken the rebel-held coastal enclaves as far east as Ajdabiyah (see the map here) and are closing in on the major port city of Benghazi.  As a center of infrastructure, Benghazi is the key to cornering the rebels: if Qaddafi can take it and thoroughly rid it of organized rebel guerrillas, the rebels will be driven into an untenable position between Benghazi and the eastern border with Egypt.  They can’t increase their viability from this position, at least not without outside help; they can only hold out for some period of time.

The rebels must make Qaddafi fight hard for Benghazi.  If his victory there is Pyrrhic enough, that would buy the remaining rebels some time to regroup.  It would also lay Benghazi waste.

Strictly from the standpoint of material factors, the rebels’ situation is not by any means hopeless.  They can’t retake the lost coastal territory by themselves, but they could maneuver to prejudice Qaddafi’s position with the international community.  Their best option would be occupying the oil and gas fields of the Sirte basin, in Libya’s vast interior.  Holding most of Libya’s oil resources, along with the coastal cities and commercial facilities of Darna and Tobruk, they would be in a position to bargain seriously for support from foreign governments.  The process of organizing to pursue this opportunity would exert a beneficial effect on their own coherence.

But we hear no one talking in these terms because the perspective fostered in the modern Western mind is that of the pre-adolescent.  The world’s happenings are an incoherent mishmash of impressions and inexplicable eruptions, about which the most important things are who is at fault, who might be considered at fault, and how everyone feels about us as it all unfolds.  The leaders of the Western world have never seemed so much like a classroom of 4th-graders, making garbled arguments to each other after 15 minutes spent perusing their Weekly Readers.

The White House asserts that it is considering “all the implications and ramifications.”  But there is no way to think systematically about this situation without the overlay of coherent leadership in some form.  Obama hasn’t even stated a US national interest or objective for Libya.  Do we support the rebels?  If we don’t know what their character is, there’s only one way to find out.  The reason the White House’s evaluation of implications and ramifications is never-ending is that it won’t be complete without some kind of policy commitment from … the White House.

There hasn’t been one, and that’s the problem.  If the question now were to pick a course of action, that would be one thing – but Team Obama is still stuck back at the starting line.  It doesn’t even know what it wants. It doesn’t have any positive vision for this situation.  It wants fewer people to be killed, and it wishes Qaddafi weren’t hanging on against the desires of his people.  But those aren’t policy positions, they are emotional reactions.

It takes policy and method to drive back a brutal dictator and prevent people from being killed.  It can’t be done any other way.  If we want Qaddafi to be gone, it’s necessary to take concrete steps to drive him out.  If Obama isn’t willing to do that, then it doesn’t matter what he says.

Others are acting, according to their interests.  Italy’s oil and gas giant Eni has already asked the EU to lift its sanctions on Libya.  Eni’s contacts are with the Qaddafi government and the management of Libya’s National Oil Company (NOC).

It is not clear how much of the reporting about Al Qaeda activity in Libya is valid – Qaddafi is attributing rebel acts to Al Qaeda right and left – but there has long been an Al Qaeda affiliate in Libya, and it is keeping a high profile among the rebel groups.

Britain and France formally asked the UN Security Council for a no-fly zone resolution on Tuesday evening.  The Arab League endorsed a no-fly zone last week.

Belarus has reportedly sent arms to Qaddafi.  Fighters from Mali, Niger, and Darfur have come to his aid.  Foreign news agencies suggest Egyptian special forces are in Libya supporting the rebels.

The world is not merely standing by right now, but it has been in something of a holding pattern.  The outcome in Libya can go one of two ways:  Qaddafi gains momentum and starts reestablishing his commercial ties with Europe, or the rebels keep him mired in a fight that makes him less attractive to foreign parties.  In the latter case, there will only be an increase in foreign involvement in Libya.

The world has been waiting for the US to take the lead, but it’s obvious we aren’t going to.  I think almost everyone in America other than Obama and his Amen chorus in the MSM realizes that.  The proper framing of the issue, at this point, is that we have not taken the lead, and the moment to prove that we would, could, or should has passed.

J.E. Dyer blogs at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions” and as The Optimistic Conservative.  She writes a weekly column for Patheos.

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