Repeat as necessary: It’s not a war. But given the news today about a quietly expanding air campaign, possible weapons shipments to the rebels, and maybe even ground troops down the line, it surely isn’t a “time-limited, scope-limited military action” anymore either. We need a new euphemism. How about a “Flexible, Unified Bombardment/Air Reaction”?

Hillary Clinton has paved the way for the United States to arm the Libyan rebels by declaring that the recent UN security council resolution relaxed an arms embargo on the country…

But Clinton made clear that UN security council resolution 1973, which allowed military strikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, relaxed the embargo. Speaking after the conference on Libya in London, Clinton said: “It is our interpretation that [resolution] 1973 amended or overrode the absolute prohibition of arms to anyone in Libya so that there could be legitimate transfer of arms if a country were to choose to do that. We have not made that decision at this time.”…

Signs of a growing international support for arming the rebels was highlighted by Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani, the prime minister of Qatar, who was the most senior Arab politician to attend the summit. Al-Thani, whose country is providing military aircraft to help patrol the no-fly zone over Libya, said: “We did not discuss [arming the rebels] – definitely [at the conference]. But our opinion is that we have to evaluate the air strikes after a while to see if it is effective to protect the people of Libya or not.

British foreign minister William Hague told reporters later that the subject of arming the rebels never came up, which makes me wonder which international conference on Libya he was attending this morning. As for peacekeepers, the latest spin from the White House is that they’re not pushing explicitly for regime change because if we bump off Qaddafi then we’ll “have a far greater ownership over what comes next” in Libya. It’s the Powell doctrine, in other words: If we “break” Libya by putting the Mad Dog down, then we’ve bought it. Haven’t we already bought it, though, by aligning ourselves with the rebels? Does anyone think the west is going to allow a total power vacuum in Tripoli, knowing that if fundamentalists seize the initiative and fill it, Obama and Sarkozy and Cameron et al. will be blamed for handing an oil-rich country over to jihadis? Admiral Stavridis is already facing reality about the aftermath:

During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island asked Adm. James Stavridis about NATO putting forces into “post-Gadhafi” Libya to make sure the country doesn’t fall apart. Stavridis said he “wouldn’t say NATO’s considering it yet.” But because of NATO’s history of putting peacekeepers in the Balkans — as pictured above — “the possibility of a stabilization regime exists.”…

The new prospect of NATO force on the ground in Libya seemed to alarm Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who got Stavridis to say that there’s “no discussion of the insertion of ground troops” in NATO circles. (And “to my knowledge” there aren’t troops there now, he said.) But Stavridis told Reed that the memory of the long NATO peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans is “in everyone’s mind.”

Emphasis on “long.” If you missed this excellent TNR piece by Steven Metz last week on the inevitability of an insurgency in Libya — no matter which side wins — read it now. A lot of western (and possibly Arab) nations may be asked to place troops in the middle of that and not all may be as resolute about seeing this through as they are right now. I wonder what The One’s paeans to coalitions and multilateralism will sound like once some of our European allies start bugging out. For that reason, perhaps, and in order to speed the outcome of this war along without much further escalation, NATO countries are talking openly today about offering Qaddafi a cushy exile beyond the reach of any international tribunals. Susan Rice refused to rule it out on ABC this morning and Italian diplomats reportedly are trying to convince some African country to take him, packaged no doubt with a hefty cash payment from grateful western nations. The thinking, I assume, is that if Qaddafi bugs out semi-voluntarily rather than ends up being killed, it’ll make his loyalists in Tripoli and elsewhere less vengeful towards the new government. Could be. Or it could be that the fact that he’s still alive and safe somewhere on the continent will keep the flames of devotion burning. Quite a gamble.

I’ll leave you with this new data from Pew. A near-majority support the mission right now, 47 percent in favor versus 36 percent against. But doubts are already beginning to grow…