“President Barack Obama acknowledged Tuesday that the joint military operation under way in Libya to protect civilians could continue as long [as] Col. Muammar Qadhafi remains in control in Tripoli, but the president also insisted that the U.S. contribution to keep the Libyan dictator’s regime in check would be limited.

“‘As long as Qadhafi remains in power — unless he changes his approach provides the Libyan people the opportunity to express themselves freely and there are significant reforms by the Libyan government, and he steps down — there’s still going to be a potential threat to the Libyan people,’ Obama told reporters at a news conference here, his final stop on a five-day tour of Latin America. ‘We will continue to support the efforts to protect the Libyan people, but we will not be in the lead.'”

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“So I ask myself, would these opponents of U.S. intervention (as part of U.N. Security Council approved action), have preferred:

“(1) That gangs of mercenaries, financed by the country’s oil wealth, conduct a bloodbath against Muammar Qaddafi’s many opponents?

“(2) That Qaddafi himself, wounded, enraged, embittered, and still in power, retain control of an important source of the world’s oil supply, particularly for Europe, and be able to spend the wealth he derives from it to sow discord in the region?

“(3) And that the movement toward democratization in the Arab world—which has spread from Tunisia to Bahrain, and now includes such unlikely locales as Syria—be dealt an enormous setback through the survival of one of region’s most notorious autocrats?

“If you answer ‘Who cares?’ to each of these, I have no counter-arguments to offer, but if you worry about two or three of these prospects, then I think you have to reconsider whether Barack Obama did the right thing in lending American support to this intervention.”

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“Believe it or not, conservative Republicans were once the voice of military restraint…

“Over the last decade the GOP has largely broken with its past and become the party of reckless military intervention. Obama’s decision to attack Libya has only been criticized by McCain and Graham for not going far enough. Despite the lack of any clear objective or national security interest, the United States has taken sides in a North African civil war…

“It may come as a shock to the Republican establishment in Washington, D.C., but conservatives across America do not support endless wars. They are ready to rebuild America instead of waging war on Afghanistan. They are ready to beat up on China economically instead of attacking Libya militarily.”

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“[M]ultilateral efforts are built around a fiction. The people who organize coalitions pretend that all the parties are sharing the burdens. In reality, only the U.S. can do many of the tasks. If the other nations falter, the U.S. will have to leap in and assume the entire burden. America’s partners go in knowing they do not bear ultimate responsibility for success or failure. Americans do.

“All of this is not to say the world should do nothing while Qaddafi unleashes his demonic fury. Nor is this a defense of unilateralism. But we should not pretend we have found a superior way to fight a war. Multilateralism works best as a garment clothing American leadership. Besides, the legitimacy of a war is not established by how it is organized but by what it achieves.”

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