This was an instance when Mr. Cool had it pretty much right. Obama saw that a no-fly zone wouldn’t be enough and lobbied for tougher United Nations language authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect the Libyan people. But he opted for limited U.S. involvement, front-loaded into the first week and under the protective cover of NATO and the Arab League.
Obama deliberately kept the United States in the background even when critics began howling for a show of American “leadership.” And most important, he was patient through the summer, rejecting the counsel of those who argued that he must escalate U.S. military intervention to break the stalemate or, alternatively, bail out.
Gaddafi was a threat to his own people, but he never posed a strategic danger to the United States. He was mostly a nuisance and a crank, as documented in “The Green Book,” which announced on the opening page that it was “the final solution to the problem of the instrument of governing.” No, that didn’t mean gas chambers but a network of popular committees that was supposed to turn Libya into an Arab version of Vermont.