Remember John Kennedy''s sending advisors to protect the South Vietnamese and the rest of Southeast Asia from Communism; Lyndon Johnson''s escalation after the attack on American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin; George W. Bush''s explanation for attacking Iraq and his later declaration of victory, as well as pronouncements and claims about Afghanistan by Presidents Bush and Obama.
Japan''s war against the United States began well at Pearl Harbor, but did not end so well at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Several decades earlier the American victory against the Spaniards in Manila Bay was easier than a long war against various groups of Filipinos that did not want American rule.
It has proven easier to start these things than to end them, or to leave an embattled place with a minimum of losses, damage, and embarrassment.
Americans have enough experience to begin with their questions and quarrels soon after the first shot.
The concern for clear aims is the subject of headlines in several media. According to the New York Times: "Target in Libya is Clear; Intent is not."
- Protecting the Libyan people from their government?
- Reacting against the extreme disregard for civil rights and human life demonstrated by Muammar Gaddafi?
- Enforcing a no-fly zone across the country against the Libyan airforce?
- Destroying the Libyan military?
- Removing the government of Gaddafi, or Gaddafi himself along with his family?
- Providing an advantage to one or another of the forces fighting Gaddafi''s regime?
- Remaking the Libyan regime?
- Responding to the personal pique of Nicolas Sarcozy, and helping him refurbish his poor showings in French opinion polls?
The New York Times notes, "there is . . . the risk that Colonel Gaddafi may not be dislodged by air power alone. That leaves the question of whether the United States and its allies are committing enough resources to win the fight. . . . For Mr. Obama, who has explicitly said that Colonel Gaddafi has lost any right to govern, the conundrum is that the United Nations mandate does not authorize his removal. So Mr. Obama now says the goal is limited: to use force to protect the Libyan people and allow humanitarian aid to get through."
The Washington Post begins an article with, "The prominent role played by the United States in carrying out and commanding the initial coalition attacks on Libya appeared to extend far beyond President Obama’s description of a narrow mission in which U.S. forces would play only a supporting part."
A headline in the Guardian: "Libya crisis may save Nicolas Sarkozy from electoral humiliation: The French president certainly needs something to prevent him coming third in next year''s election."
Israel radio reports some confusion as to whether the Arab League is supporting or opposing the operation.
Republicans are thought to be the party of war, but they are also the party of opposition. As reported by the New York Times:
The Speaker of the House said, “The president is the commander in chief, but the administration has a responsibility to define for the American people, the Congress, and our troops what the mission in Libya is, better explain what America’s role is in achieving that mission, and make clear how it will be accomplished.” .
A House Committee Chairman asked: “Are our goals aimed at protecting civilians in Libya, or the removal of Muammar Gaddafi from power? In either case, to what extent and for how long will military resources be utilized?”
An advisor to President George W. Bush who helped plan the war against Saddam Hussein, said, "I don’t quite see what is behind the strategy in Libya.. . . We are now in a situation where we have a mismatch of what the president said we want to do as a nation, what the U.N. Security Council authorizes, and what we are actually ready to commit in resources.”
If I were fighting on the side of Muammar Gaddafi, I would worry about the European, American, and even the Qatari forces arrayed against me.
If I were a Libyan civilian (Heaven forbid), I would worry about the capacity of those countries'' soldiers to direct missiles, bombs, and other weapons against the right people, and not against innocent me.
If I were on one of the groups fighting against Gaddafi, I would wonder which of us would get the help of which country in the quarrels or violence likely in the event that one of those missiles, bombs, or other weapons does away with the hated colonel.
If I were about to fly to, from, or within France, Britain, the United States, Spain, Norway, Qatar or any other country that has signed on to this war, I would think about Lockarbie, and how Gaddafi deals with countries that have done him an injustice.
If I were a Muslim, I would wonder about comments by Barack Obama and some European leaders denying any quarrel with Islam. They may distinguish between Islam and Muslims, but that has not helped me, my brothers or sisters in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, now Libya and who knows where else to come.
Given that I am none of the above, I will watch from here. By the time it is over, I may have written more than a few notes about my thoughts.