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The bombing of Libya: What's the endgame?

Allied forces launch a major assault on Moammar Gadhafi's regime. Do we have an exit strategy?

France, the U.S., Britain, and other allied forces began bombing Libya on Saturday, to enforce a United Nations resolution authorizing international action to protect Libyans from the brutal assault of their violent dictator. But in laying out his rationale for involving the U.S. in Libya's affairs, President Obama notably didn't repeat his call from two weeks ago that Moammar Gadhafi must go. And top U.S. military officials said over the weekend that Gadhafi might survive the intervention. So, how will we know when our mission is accomplished?

Who knows? This is a liberal war by committee: "Obama has staked an awful lot on the hope that our Libyan adventure" will be "low risk" and short, says Ross Douthat in The New York Times. But his "most multilateral, least cowboyish" approach to the conflict doesn't give hope. This "liberal way of war" most likely means a long, ill-defined slog, "fought by committee" and "with one hand behind our back," ending in a stalemate with Gadhafi."A very liberal intervention"

Victory means ousting Gadhafi: The specific mission is to protect civilians, says British Gen. Lord Richard Dannatt in The Telegraph. But the "implied task — and the end-state to be achieved — must be the removal" of Gadhafi, even if that "cannot be on the lips of the politicians." And when Gadhafi's troops realize they have to choose between their "morally bankrupt" leader and their lives, "regime change may well be on the way.""Libya crisis: The unspoken mission is to topple Gaddafi"

And quickly replacing him with new leaders: As "messy and confusing" as the war will be, it "isn't likely to last long," says David Ignatius in The Washington Post. "Then we’re likely to see a cease-fire and then political-military process — much of it taking place in the shadows — that leads to Gadhafi’s ouster and replacement by some sort of coalition government.""An allied intervention in Libya"

We've fumbled our way into a long-term commitment: We're stuck with "a worst of all possible worlds scenario no matter which way things turn out," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. Either a chastened Gadhafi and his cronies stay in power as "international pariahs" — a role they're used to — or we pave the way for someone else to take control. But we know next to nothing about the Libyan rebels we're supporting — they could be worse than Gadhafi. And now we're implicitly "responsible for the safety of Libyan civilians." Good luck making a swift exit."If Gaddafi stays in power, then what's the point of intervention?"

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