An Unclear Path
Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron lay out an unclear path in Libya.
In their op-ed today, President Obama, President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron argue that Libya can only be at peace if Gaddafi steps down:
...so long as Qaddafi is in power, NATO must maintain its operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds. Then a genuine transition from dictatorship to an inclusive constitutional process can really begin, led by a new generation of leaders. In order for that transition to succeed, Qaddafi must go and go for good. At that point, the United Nations and its members should help the Libyan people as they rebuild where Qaddafi has destroyed — to repair homes and hospitals, to restore basic utilities, and to assist Libyans as they develop the institutions to underpin a prosperous and open society.
Nowhere in the article, however, do they explain how they intend to bring about his downfall. The leaders state that unseating Gaddafi was not the point of the mission, but then declare that the NATO mission will not end unless and until Gaddafi steps aside. So it's only natural for people to point out that there is a rather glaring mismatch between means and ends here. Why harp on the fact that the goal is Gaddafi's departure if you're not going to take the necessary steps to hasten him to the door?
This isn't simply incoherent, it's dangerous. It is obviously foolish to try and unseat Gaddafi - the U.S.and NATO are completely unprepared to police and stabilize a post-Gaddafi Libya. But by publicly affirming that the goal is regime change, Western leaders are ultimately committed to doing so down the road.