NATO: Oh, by the way, we're trying to kill Qaddafi now

Well … yes, of course they are. As has been painfully obvious to even casual observers of the Libya war, you’re not going to reach any sort of sustainable stasis in Tripoli or elsewhere unless you-know-who has been retired. That’s why they’ve been trying to kill him for weeks, in fact. But such are the wonders of international multilateralism that the Security Council would only sign off on a resolution limiting the mission to protecting civilians, not removing the cancer who’s been threatening those civilians for 40 years. Hence this passage in Obama’s speech about Libya on March 28:

Of course, there is no question that Libya -– and the world –- would be better off with Qaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.

The task that I assigned our forces -– to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a no-fly zone -– carries with it a U.N. mandate and international support. It’s also what the Libyan opposition asked us to do. If we tried to overthrow Qaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter. We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground to accomplish that mission, or risk killing many civilians from the air. The dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater. So would the costs and our share of the responsibility for what comes next.

Fast-forward to May 26, after two months of stalemate and grumbling in Congress about Obama’s disregard for the War Powers Act:

Mr. Obama’s description of the objectives has shifted. In a speech to the nation in late March, he described the effort as simply one of protecting civilians, and the White House denied that ousting Colonel Qaddafi was critical to that effort. “Broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake,” he said. While sporadic attacks on civilians continue, the United States and its allies have largely achieved that objective, NATO and American officials contend. The rebel-held ground in eastern Libya is secure, and rebel forces aided by allied air power have pushed back loyalist Qaddafi forces from the contested port city of Misurata.

But Mr. Obama suggested on Wednesday that the objective had broadened. “The goal is to make sure that the Libyan people can make a determination about how they want to proceed, and that they’ll be finally free of 40 years of tyranny and they can start creating the institutions required for self-determination.” That is parallel to the objective the United States set in Afghanistan in 2001 and in Iraq in 2003.

It sure is! But a few weeks later, despite dogged bombing of Tripoli, we still hadn’t taken him out. Time to finally come clean? Looks that way:

A U.N. resolution justifies the targeting of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, a senior NATO military official with operational knowledge of the Libya mission told CNN Thursday…

The resolution said forces could use “all necessary measures” to protect civilians.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Wednesday it is time to start planning for what to do in Libya after Gadhafi’s departure “because Gadhafi’s reign of terror is coming to an end.”

That’s actually worse than the War Powers Act maneuvering, isn’t it? The WPA is constitutionally ambiguous, so Obama refusing to seek congressional approval of the mission isn’t a groundless endeavor. Lying to the Security Council about not seeking regime change — per Obama’s own words in March — and then turning around and citing that resolution as authority for regime change is something altogether different. What an interesting multilateralist Obama’s turned out to be. He insists on operating through international channels, and then he makes a mockery of those channels by using them unwillingly as cover for whatever his own policy goal is. In a way, he’s expressed more contempt for UN legitimacy than Bush ever did.

Well, at least we’ll soon be rid of Qaddafi. Exit quotation: “We are confident that history will see the wisdom of your country in debating these issues.”