The Obama administration has painted itself into a bit of a corner:
[T]he State Department and the Pentagon have been adopting positions that would make intervention to change that military balance difficult, if not virtually impossible. On Monday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said an arms embargo included in the U.N. resolution meant that “it’s a violation for any country to provide arms to anyone in Libya,” including the rebels. On Tuesday Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that “it’s very important that there be a U.N. decision on whatever might be done,” including imposing a no-fly zone. [...]
It’s beginning to look as if what Mr. Obama has “engineered” is a situation in which the United States and its closest allies have declared that a dictator must go “as quickly as possible” – and have not only constrained themselves from ensuring that outcome but are actively hindering it by refusing to provide arms to the opposition. So far the United States has not even recognized the opposition administration set up in Benghazi – even though the White House has said repeatedly that Mr. Gaddafi’s regime is no longer legitimate.
Mr. Obama, who skipped a meeting of his top aides on Libya Wednesday, may hope that the Libyan rebels will defeat the Gaddafi forces without outside help – or that other Western governments will provide the leadership that he is shunning. Meetings of NATO, the European Union and the Arab League in the next several days may produce decisions that loosen the straitjacket the administration has applied to itself. If not, the world will watch as Mr. Gaddafi continues to massacre his people, while an American president who said that he must go fails to implement any strategy for making that happen.
I’m not sure that the United States has any reason to interfere in a Libyan civil war, especially one that would warrant military intervention, unilaterally or otherwise. The problem is that as soon as the President made it the position of the United States that Qaddafi needed to go, he needs to back that up. The Libyan revolt began while the Mubarak regime closed up shop in Egypt, and I can only assume that team Obama felt that Qaddafi would leave just as easily, as the protests grew.
If that’s the case, the Obama administration is just as inept and clueless as previously feared, and probably even more so.
France and England are making noise about bombing Libya and/or establishing a no-fly zone, respectively. Both countries want “action” in North Africa, but there’s a lot of hand-wringing as to what that action will be. One thing is clear, though. The EU has spoken:
An EU summit call today for Gaddafi to “relinquish power immediately” is seen as vital for helping to win support from Arab League meeting of foreign ministers on Saturday. [...]
William Hague, the foreign secretary said that Britain was happy to talk to the council, but stopped well short of recognition. A letter written by Mr Hague yesterday urged the EU to strip Gaddafi of diplomatic recognition.
“The EU and its member states will not work or co-operate with Gaddafi [and should] support the suspension of Gaddafi’s sovereign immunity, removing from him the protection enjoyed by heads of state,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, it’s becoming apparent that the rebels’ inexperience and lack of weaponry appears to be making all the difference as Libya explodes into civil war:
“We have God on our side and a just cause, but Qaddafi has better weapons,” says Sarhan Khaled, a 34-year-old businessman who has been fighting just west of the oil town of Ras Lanuf for the past four days. “We’ll fight either way, but we’d like the international community to stop his planes.”
This afternoon NATO is considering a no-fly zone to protect the uprising – something the rebels have been begging for – and economic sanctions have been heaped on Qaddafi and his associates. [...]
[E]vents today show that consideration of further moves could soon become moot.
Late Thursday afternoon some of the largely civilian militia at the forefront of the uprising against Qaddafi’s 41-year reign started to withdraw from Ras Lanuf after a withering assault by mortars, rocket fire, and warplanes over the past two days.
After pummeling the rebel positions from the air, forces loyal to Qaddafi maneuvered in the desert south of the lightly armed rebels, who are generally visible in large clusters along the highway, to attack them from their flank. As of this writing, the town appeared to remain in rebel hands, albeit shakily.
Today’s assault, to be sure, involved far more than planes. Though the rebels have rockets, they have had difficulty locating Qaddafi’s forces and are generally unskilled operators. That means that Qaddafi’s forces have been able to rain mortars and rockets on the area with little fear of reprisals.
Does anyone else think that the EU’s chest-thumping is falling on deaf ears? Does anyone believe that Qaddafi is taking them seriously? I’m trying to think otherwise, but there’s really no convincing information to the contrary.