NATO’s leaders are scrambling to find tactics that might force Kadafi to give up: military escalation, aid to the rebels, Russian mediation. They’re contemplating outcomes in which Kadafi might not have to leave Libya or stand trial before the International Criminal Court. “All options are open,” Sarkozy said last month. “We are not saying that Kadafi needs to be exiled. He must leave power, and the quicker he does it, the greater his choice.”
But Kadafi shows little interest in a graceful exit, and NATO may soon face a tough decision. British newspapers have already reported that former British soldiers are on the ground spotting targets for NATO airstrikes, reportedly under contract to an unnamed Arab regime. If the air war stalls, Britain and France will have to consider sending in ground forces as the quickest way to finish the job. Hague has already acknowledged that Britain will probably send peacekeeping troops if and when the conflict ends.
In a contest of wills between NATO and Kadafi, NATO still appears likely to win in the long run. Kadafi is hanging on because his survival is at stake; there’s no comfortable retirement plan for tyrants anymore. Yet Sarkozy and Cameron also need to win; they’ve staked much of their stature as leaders on the outcome.