Washington’s self-involved view is often curious, but this is curiouser still: As if in today’s world, where we’ve just seen revolutions spread across the vast Arab map faster than a viral video, you could somehow isolate the Libyan problem; as if you could trade participation for one war for participation in another.

The world doesn’t work that way anymore, if it ever did. There is no question, for instance, that what happens in Syria is of vital interest to Israel, which is America’s strategic partner; nor is there any question that Assad is watching Gaddafi’s brutal tactics for precedents that will serve the Syrian’s own savage regime. The same holds true for Ali Abdullah Saleh, holding out against his people and against the odds in Yemen, whose lawless territory harbors some of the most dangerous members of al Qaeda…

So, yes, many voices in Washington argue that Libya should be someone else’s problem, that the Europeans should shoulder more of the burden, or that they should have spent more on defense in the past so they could, hypothetically, take on more of the military operations now. But a protracted stalemate in Libya, which is where NATO’s noncommittal commitment appears to be headed, will be an unmitigated disaster, precisely, for American interests. Next time Obama debates these issues with himself, he may want to take that into account.