For a civilian observer, the fog of war is firmly in place. I don't really have much of an idea what's actually going on over there. Some number of U.S. Navy ships are involved, and at least on British submarine. Similarly, there are French, British, and U.S. aircraft involved, and possibly some from other nations as well. The official press releases are mainly going out of their way to stress the multinational nature of this attack, but one credible report has the operation as being comprised nearly entirely of U.S. forces, and U.S. led. I'm pretty sure we launched a whole bunch of cruise missiles (100 to 114, depending on the report) and apparently (two reports) we have stealth bombers over Tripoli. The French aircraft are visible and active over Benghazi. That's about all the actual news content I've seen.
Ghadaffi is, of course, ranting like the madman he is. He claims to have armed men, women, and children with heavy automatic weapons, grenades, mortars, rockets, etc. He says that he will push the invaders (who are either after his oil or exterminating Islam, he says) off the earth. Good luck with that, pal.
Now that we're engaged in Libya, I wonder mainly what our criteria for success are. Are we going to limit our involvement to the literal wording of U.N. Resolution 1973 – to protect Libyan civilians? Or are we committed to “regime change”? And who are these rebels, anyway? It's hard to conceive of a replacement for Ghadaffi that would actually be worse than him, I admit – but what does come after? I have no idea. In Tunisia and Egypt, the rebels were clearly asking for democracy. In Libya, I simply don't know what they were asking for.
Another big question mark for me: our intervention in Libya represents an enormous shift in Middle Eastern strategy. We have not intervened in a Middle Eastern country's internal affairs for a long time. Are we now saying to the Middle Eastern thugocracies “Look at Libya! Ghadaffi crossed a line that we will not let you cross. Pay attention, or you could be next!” And if we're not saying that, then what's so special about Libya that caused us to decide to intervene?
What I'm really afraid of – the subtext of the preceding paragraph – is that the Obama administration has no overarching strategy for Middle Eastern policy at all. Instead, I fear, they're simply being reactive – and mainly to polling data. I fear that the Obama acolytes saw this as an opportunity for Obama to become a “war president” in his own right (instead of a reluctant caretaker to inherited wars), and to earn support for the 2012 elections that way. That's not a Middle Eastern strategy, and down that road leads disaster. That's my fear. I hope I'm wrong.
There is one thing we can know for sure, even without news reports:
Brave soldiers in all three parties to the conflict are in harm's way. Most of these soldiers are apolitical, and are just doing their duty as they see it. Some of them will be injured and killed in the next few days. On all sides, families will be grieving. All because of one nutcase thug. It isn't fair, it isn't just ... but it's the way this crazy world works. Despite the best intentions of the progressives, who think diplomacy and negotiation can settle any conflict – sometimes that just isn't so. Sometimes it comes down to brutally applied force of arms...