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Who’s Doing What in Libya?

Dueling headline alert. From the New York Times:

NATO Helps in Hunt for Qaddafi as Rebels Gain Momentum

And from the Associated Press:

Pentagon: US, NATO not in manhunt for Qaddafi

Well, they can’t both be right.

NATO is either helping in the hunt for Muammar Qaddafi or it’s not. As reported in the Times, “Britain’s defense secretary, Liam Fox, said Thursday that NATO was trying to help the rebels locate Colonel Qaddafi, apparently breaking from the frequent Western assertion that it adheres to its United Nations mandate to protect civilians.” But according to the AP, U.S. Marine Col. David Lapan said,  “I’ve confirmed with folks at NATO and through the command structure that they are not involved in targeting any particular individual, that they are not involved in a manhunt. NATO itself and the US’s part of NATO are not.”

Why would it be important for the U.S. to deny Liam Fox’s claim about NATO’s involvement in hunting down Qaddafi? Perhaps because if what Fox says is true then all the crowing about Barack Obama’s trailblazing success in keeping America’s role limited and bound by a UN mandate goes out the door. Wouldn’t it be something if the drawn out campaign in Libya came to a successful end because the U.S. and NATO had finally come around to doing what critics had been suggesting all along: stepping up the attacks and ignoring the constraints of international bodies? If that turns out to be the case, just imagine how much sooner this all could have been accomplished.