“Obama can take no solace in the complaint of President Lyndon Johnson as he pondered Vietnam in March of 1965, before the big U.S. buildup: “I can’t get out. I can’t finish it with what I’ve got. So what the hell can I do?‘”

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“European officials, when promised anonymity, wring their hands that this is the first NATO operation since the creation of the alliance a half-century ago in which the United States has declined to take the lead. Some former Clinton administration officials have uttered similar concerns, along with Republican critics like Senator John McCain, who made his point last week by flying into Benghazi, Libya, and visiting with the rebels, whom he immediately declared his ‘heroes.’ (His enthusiasm is apparently not broadly shared in the Republican Party: At the same moment Mr. McCain was cheering on Colonel Qaddafi’s opponents, Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, the Tea Party favorite weighing a run for the presidency, declared that the president was foolish to support rebels who include ‘elements of Al Qaeda in North Africa and Hezbollah.’)

“Yet the question may be not whether the United States leads, but whether it puts its credibility on the line by seeming to enter the conflict half-heartedly. ‘The problem is the gap between U.S. objectives and what we are willing to do to accomplish them,’ Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, who left the Bush administration in part because of his objections to the drive to invade Iraq, said on Friday. ‘We either have to do a lot more — and the Predators were a step in that direction — or go for a cease-fire and live with the fact that Qaddafi could be in place for some time.’

“In short, Mr. Haass is making the case that President Obama is violating the Powell Doctrine: If you elect to use the United States military, you must do so with such overwhelming force that there is no doubt of the outcome.”

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“The NATO leaders’ hope is that their still-limited military action can provoke someone in Tripoli to overthrow Kadafi. The regime is brittle, they say; its ‘brother leader’ is no indomitable giant like Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh. Libya watchers in the intelligence community say every week brings new reports of generals and other Kadafi loyalists who are on the verge of defecting.

“Except most of them haven’t. And so, in addition to the best-case scenario of a palace coup, U.S. officials now talk increasingly of a longer-term scenario: a war of attrition…

“Obama and Gates have been firm in rejecting American ground troops in Libya; this time, that’s a question for Cameron, Sarkozy and other Europeans. Before this war reaches its 78-day mark in early June, they will almost surely need to escalate it further, both to bring Libya’s agony to an end and to avoid adding their own jobs to the casualty lists.”

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“McCain, perhaps the most vocal supporter of the Libyan war in all if the U.S. government, says he was impressed by his meetings with rebel leaders. ‘They’re very good people,’ he says. ‘Mainly well-educated, a number of women in the [Transitional National Council] — very normal, dedicated people.’…

“‘But you’ve got to remember that they’ve never had a political party in Libya,’ McCain adds. ‘Never had a political party. So to say the least, it’s a very steep learning curve.’

“McCain dismissed concerns that rebel forces include some veterans of al Qaeda. ‘I’m sure that there may be some element there, but I guarantee you that they didn’t rise up because they wanted to be al Qaeda fighters,’ McCain says. ‘They rose up because they wanted to throw off the yoke of Gadhafi, the same way that people in Egypt rose up and the same way that people in Syria are rising up. It’s not because they’re al Qaeda extremists, it’s that their tired of being governed by an extremist who doesn’t hesitate to massacre them.'”

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“Then there are the foreign policy birthers, who see Obama as Jimmy Carter, a vacillating over-intellectualized liberal who can’t make up his mind. To them, whatever Obama does abroad is wrong—seriously and dangerously wrong. If he supports the Mideast democrats, they chant that he’s “betraying” our longtime allies. If he doesn’t demand the removal of these longtime allies, they charge him with selling out the democrats. Of course, our birthers can say whatever they want. This is America. Nonetheless, I indulge myself in the fantasy that some editor or TV producer would ask one simple question to these foreign policy birthers: What exactly in heaven’s name would you do?…

“In any event and by all accounts, these potent jets by themselves would not even begin to turn the tide of war or end the seeming stalemate. And yet, birthers like McCain demand MORE without beginning to define what more means and what effects they think MORE will have on the battlefield or among Col. Gaddafi’s entourage. They demand decisive action, but never specify what that would be. And keep in mind that the birthers almost always swear to the highest heavens that they are not recommending the introduction of U.S. or other nations’ ground troops. Be honest, birthers: No one predicts an early end to the fighting without a large contingent of land forces, and no birther is going to propose that. So, what we have is the birthers slamming Obama for the stalemate in a war THEY pushed him into without THEIR offering the necessary means to win it.”

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“The United States should retake control of the NATO military operation in Libya, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Sunday.

“‘I never wanted us to step down … because the United States is NATO – that’s the reality,’ McCain said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.'”

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“‘The way to get Gadhafi to leave is have his inner circle break and turn on him. And that’s going to take a sustained effort through an air campaign.'”