NYT on Libya: Bailing out of a war before it's won will hurt U.S. credibility

This isn’t even the most embarrassing thing in the Times today. That honor goes to their story about the jihadi plot against the U.S. military center in Seattle. The plotters allegedly admired Anwar al-Awlaki and did the usual mumbling about being soldiers of Allah, but all the NYT will tell you is that “They were frustrated … by American war policies.” Either that’s a nifty bit of whitewashing or else the Times simply assumes that you’re familiar enough with stories like this by now that you can fill in the blanks yourself by extrapolating from the suspects’ names. Cowardly or lazy, take your pick.

Anyway. Each new day brings another step through the looking glass on Libya, and today it was the NYT’s turn. First Obama out-Bushed Bush, then Hillary started questioning the patriotism of war opponents, and now we’ve got the flagship paper of the liberal intelligentsia wondering why anyone would jeopardize American military credibility by pulling the plug before victory’s been declared. Really.

Am I awake?

One measure, sponsored by Representative Thomas Rooney and apparently backed by the House leadership, would allow financing only for American surveillance, search-and-rescue missions, planning and aerial refueling. Republicans say that if it passes, the Pentagon would have to halt drone strikes and attacks on Libyan air defenses.

They claimed it would do minimal damage to the alliance and its campaign because the United States would still be providing some support. But the damage to this country’s credibility, and its leadership of NATO, would be enormous. Any sign that the United States is bailing out could lead others to follow…

We also believe Congress has an important role to play in this debate. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to vote on the Kerry-McCain measure next week. The majority leader, Harry Reid, has said he has the votes in the Senate. Thankfully, some Senate Republicans also seem to understand the importance of the United States following through on its national security commitments.

It’s not just the Times either. Check out the partisan split on Libya via Gallup:

Despite the fact that “days, not weeks” has turned into months; despite the fact that NATO’s mission has lurched from one goal to another; despite the fact that Obama ignored his own lawyers when they suggested that the war was illegal; despite unusual bipartisan opposition in Congress; despite periodic reports of an ominous Islamist strain within the rebel ranks; and despite the fact that some NATO commanders are now suggesting that ground troops might be needed in the aftermath of Qaddafi’s fall to keep the peace, the number of Democrats who approve of the war has actually increased since it started. Who knows? If it drags on through the end of the year, he might end up with 60 percent approval from his base.

Update: You know, in a way, I admire their shamelessness here. The NYT editorial board isn’t stupid; surely they know how preposterous it is for them to be taking a line this hawkish (especially on a war as compromised as this one is) after the past eight years. But darn if they didn’t do it to help Obama out. No pretense of consistency or neutral principles, just raw partisanship. There’s honesty in that, as hackish as it is.