President Obama, Prime Minister David Cameron, and President Nicolas Sarkozy have published an op-ed today that only highlights the incoherence of their approach to Libya. They write:
Our duty and our mandate under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that. It is not to remove Qaddafi by force. But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power. The International Criminal Court is rightly investigating the crimes committed against civilians and the grievous violations of international law. It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government.
So we’re not going to remove Qaddafi by force but we are going to insist that he leave? So far he has refused to budge. What, if anything, are we prepared to do to force him out?
Our failure to do more is especially telling when we read that even as NATO leaders were meeting to discuss Libya, “Gaddafi chose the same day and, according to some reports, the very hour NATO ministers were meeting to ride around Tripoli in an open-top sport-utility vehicle, pumping his fist defiantly, in an act broadcast on Libyan state TV.” Why can’t a NATO F-16 drop a JDAM on Qaddafi’s head and hasten “the genuine transition from dictatorship to an inclusive constitutional process” that Obama, Cameron, and Sarkozy call for? Because that’s outside the parameters of the UN resolution? In fact the UN resolution gives the allies broad powers to end Qaddafi’s reign of terror, and while it does not specifically call for Qaddafi’s elimination, it does not preclude such action either.
It’s time for the leaders of NATO to get serious. They have gone to war against Qaddafi. Let’s finish the job as quickly as possible, thereby sparing the people of Libya further bloodshed, and get on with the task of building a better state—something that will demand, by the way, a large commitment from the international community.