If Qaddafi remains in power, that would guarantee a continuing disaster for the Libyan people. And the consequences would extend far beyond Libya.
The launch of Western military operations to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1973 is long overdue, but nonetheless welcome: After weeks of delay, brutal attacks by the regime, and a loss of momentum for the rebellion, Colonel Qaddafi’s counter-revolution might now be halted.
The long delay by the West was intolerable. For two weeks, Qaddafi’s forces relentlessly attacked his own people while the United States, NATO, the EU, and UN were unwilling to act. Genuine efforts to stop Qaddafi began only hours before he would have crushed the rebellion in Benghazi. But now, Britain, France, and US may have finally decided that Western values and interest must align as they respond to the changes sweeping the Middle East.
But Western powers must still confront a key strategic question: What is the objective of the airstrikes and the no-fly zone? Is our objective limited to enforcing a no-fly zone to relieve humanitarian suffering? Is it to freeze the situation on the ground? Is it to give support to the rebels so they can remove Qaddafi from power? And, if the latter, what level of military support will the West provide to help the rebels?
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