What are our actual goals there? Why are we allowing other nations to take the lead?

A few weeks ago, President Obama said that Gadhafi must step down. Now, just before the action commenced, he amended that to something along the lines of “We must protect the civilians of Libya.” In so doing, he has undercut the earlier position of his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was originally in the regime change camp.

So, which is it? Regime change or humanitarian protection? The two are very different. Both are laudable, worthy goals, but don’t you have to pick one? And isn’t it just a bit questionable when the President of the United States can’t stick to a tougher, higher standard (regime change of a terrorist who orchestrated the murder of 200+ Americans) and instead defaults to the softer, squishier level of simply “humanitarian protection”?

There are obviously two things at work here:

1. Expectation Management:

By lowering the expectation from regime change to simply humanitarian protection, Obama gives the US mission (and therefore himself) an easier ‘get.’ He’s not promising to turn Libya into a democracy, or to transform their society or establish a beacon of openness in Northern Africa. He’s simply saying he’ll protect a few lives. Nothing more. If more good results from our actions, he gets to take the extra credit, but he doesn’t get penalized for falling short.

2. Image Management:

This is the big one. By stalling and waffling for several weeks until the UN finally got around to ok’ing something and getting the Arab League (What is that, anyway? Does anyone really know?) to say ‘yes’ to a no-fly zone, Obama gets a two-fer: He gets to show he’s the Un-Bush to the rest of the world (“See? I got the whole world’s approval. I didn’t go it alone, like that dope cowboy did in Iraq and Afghanistan.”), and he gets to show–in his mind–that America is not the arrogant ‘our way or the highway’ bully that it was a few years ago.

Will his delayed action and change of goal result in a better outcome in Libya or simply an improved image for himself? It’s fine and dandy that France and Qatar are flying combat missions and shooting at Moammar’s tanks, but presumably the US could carry out those combat missions more effectively–if the successful prosecution of military objectives was the primary goal.

It’s not. The Obama Administration now freely admits that Gadhafi, even if weakened, may remain in power, at least in a sector of Libya, and that apparently is fine with them. The U.S.’s primary goal is image enhancement, and for that Obama is to be congratulated for his deft political handling of the entire matter. This is not something you’re likely to read elsewhere or be admitted to by anyone else.

There has not been one whit of criticism of our involvement by the liberal MSM, and just enough publicity of the always anti-war statements by Congresspeople like Nadler of NY and Kucinich of Ohio to make the MSM coverage appear ‘balanced.’

But for committed Dems and liberals like Obama and the MSM, US national security interests are never a reason to commit US forces to action. Only humanitarian reasons will do. Removing a murderous dictator who has the blood of 200 Americans on his hands, was (and would be again) pursuing WMD, and threatened the stability of the entire region was not sufficient. But discovering the newly-essential humanitarian needs of the Libyan rebels was all we needed.

Let’s watch this all unfold.