“With Libya, humanitarian hawks have found an almost too-good-to-be-true vehicle for this vision. In Qaddafi, the U.S. has an operatically villainous adversary who not only has the blood of Americans on his hands but also the blood of his own citizens, having pledged to Libyans who dare oppose him that his military ‘will find you in your closets.’ From a purely Realpolitik perspective, Qaddafi also gives the U.S. a Muslim foe who—unlike even Saddam Hussein—is not particularly beloved by the Arab street, much less Arab leaders. Which explains why, unlike the war in Iraq, this military intervention is truly multilateral.
“Then there’s the reality of this particular moment. There is no chance of the U.S. intervening militarily on behalf of the revolts in places like Bahrain or Yemen or Syria, where the U.S. either counts on the cooperation of its repressive leaders or fears the relative might of its armies. But Libya, with its isolated, intransigent dictator and ragtag military, presents no such difficulties. As such, it offers an ideal vehicle to signal to ‘those kids’ (as an Obama aide, speaking to Politico, referred to Arab pro-democracy demonstrators) that the United States is on the right side of history.”
“We’re at war. We need to succeed in that war. By all means, be generous with the constructive criticism. (For example, it seems ridiculous for the United States not to be arming the Libyan opposition.) Note for the historical record the Obama administration’s dithering and double-talk. But don’t carp and cavil in ways that suggest America can’t prevail, or that America shouldn’t prevail. Don’t revel in every administration misstep. Don’t chortle at every misstatement. Don’t exacerbate the administration’s failure to build domestic support for the mission. Put the mission, and the country, first.
“Which means, to some extent, that we might consider biting our collective tongues, wishing the president well because he is our president, and helping him get it right rather than pointing with glee to everything he’s doing wrong. Which in turn means that we might want to cool it with the 24/7 criticism. Let’s support our troops and their mission, and give the war a chance—even though it’s a war that’s not being perfectly conducted by an administration that offers plenty of cause for frustration.
“You go to war with the president you have.”
“Critics of America’s intervention in Libya have wondered how much we really know about the antigovernment opposition. This is a legitimate line of inquiry. We should be thinking about the devil we may not know. But in Libya today there is also a devil we do know. His name is Muammar Qaddafi…
“The United States, having gone to war against the Libyan regime, now has to decide whether or not to allow Qaddafi to stay in power. Acquiescing to Qaddafi’s continued rule in Tripoli not only would be a disgrace, but a moral and strategic error of enormous consequence. The only decent outcome that can emerge from Operation Odyssey Dawn is to see Qaddafi gone. A person of unusual cruelty, the Libyan tyrant has built a grotesque and soul-destroying regime. Four decades-plus in power have been more than enough. It is time for the Butcher of Tripoli to leave the stage.”
“[O]ne of the fundamental lessons of Iraq is that things will be worse than you think. Not only does war unleash all manner of latent enmity and violence, but decades of abusive treatment by a ruthless dictators fuels pathologies that only fully manifest themselves when the lid of control pops off. Pro- and anti-Qaddafi tribes could square off against one another; Qaddafi could unleash the jihadists he once trained to wreak violence both at home and abroad. So you wouldn’t want to bet on a happy outcome in Libya — you’d want to do whatever you could to help deliver one. And it behooves those of us who have argued for the intervention now under way to give serious thought to what form that help should take.
“The United States will not be the occupying power in Libya as it was in Iraq, and thus will have far less leverage, and far less responsibility. The Libyans will be calling the shots. But thanks to Qaddafi’s malevolently whimsical vision of a nation without a state or state institutions, whoever inherits the country will need an enormous amount of outside help.”
“‘They say that we are all Libyans and we are one people,’ said the woman, who gave her name as Eman al-Obeidy, barging in during breakfast at the hotel dining room. ‘But look at what the Qaddafi men did to me.’ She displayed a broad bruise on her face, a large scar on her upper thigh, several narrow and deep scratch marks lower on her leg, and marks that seemed to come from binding around her hands and feet.
“She said she had been raped by 15 men. ‘I was tied up, and they defecated and urinated on me,’ she said. ‘They violated my honor.’
“She pleaded for friends she said were still in custody. ‘They are still there, they are still there,’ she said.”