Our Libya policy is so confused that I hesitate to do another post on it. Does anybody have a clear idea what it is and on what principles it is based? The one discernable principle isn’t a good one: that the U.S. has done so much harm in the world that she should never again act without the taming permission of the “international community.” (Presumably, we still get to foot the bills, though.)

The most confused person seems to be gallivanting President Barack Obama, who has said (I think I’m getting this right) that Gaddafi must go but that making him go is not the mission of, well, the current mission, whatever that might be. I think the president believes the madman must “step down.”

Peter Wehner is also confused and reveals it in a blog headlined “Mission: Unintelligible:”

What we have right now is, [as Abe Greenwald put it in a previous post, “mission murk.” Second, to stress that this operation is limited in scope and that America will move in the background soon sends the wrong signals to just about everyone, including Qaddafi and the rebels. A country shouldn’t enter a conflict and, immediately upon entering it, emphasize the limited nature of its involvement. That can change, based on unforeseeable circumstances; and it sends a message in bright, neon lights: Our will is weak, our commitment limited, our attention span short.

As for the statement that unseating Qaddafi is not an objective of military operations: This can only increase the odds that Qaddafi stays in power. Taking regime decapitation off the table removes a powerful incentive for Qaddafi to leave sooner rather than later.

Victor Davis Hanson:

The Obama administration’s Libyan strategy is a paradox – resulting from the president’s belatedly announcing that Moammar Qaddafi must go, using military force against him, and then denying that our objective is to see him leave. …

The Obama administration, after over two weeks of unrest in Libya, grandly declared that Qaddafi had to go. Why? I think because it seemed then almost certain that the rebels were just about to throw him out. We did not wish to seem calculating, opportunistic, and on the wrong side of history, as we had when we belatedly piggy-backed on the rather easy departures of dictators/not dictators – and former allies – Hosni Mubarak and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

But any student of the Middle East could have reminded the president that Qaddafi is not Mubarak or Ben Ali, but more akin to Ahmadinejad, Assad, the Taliban, or Saddam Hussein. Tyrants of that stripe don’t leave when told to. They equate exile with a noose. Such thugs stay in power until they are killed or driven out by overwhelming military force – usually well beyond what dissidents and insurgents can muster.

After nearly three months, there is also still no typology, even if informal, offered of Middle Eastern unrest. The Obama administration has not explained how our muscularity with Libya fits into our larger policy of embracing “outreach” to Syria, not “meddling” in Iran, and keeping silent about Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Bahrain and about the popular unrest in the Gulf and Jordan. Where do we intervene in the region, for what and on behalf of whom, and how and for how long?

Nor is liberal columnist Richard Cohen picking up clear signals on Libya:

In the Oval Office, President Obama keeps busts of his heroes – Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. He should add one of Milton Berle, the so-called Mr. Television of the 1950s. Berle used to signal his studio audience to both continue and stop applauding by holding up one hand to wave them on and another to quiet them. This is the president’s Libya policy in a nutshell.

Yeah, it’s just a mess. This pompous professor type takes over, puts his fantasy of a weak America into action, but has no clear idea of what is going on in the Middle East. Maybe they weren’t so smart in the faculty lounge after all. President Obama is younger than those who came of age in the 1960s but he shares their view that the world, including foreign policy, can be run on sentiment. (Everybody get together–let’s love one another right now.) It can’t. It takes thought, calculation, and a commitment to American ideals.

That said, the United States has committed to the use of force, and I for one support not just the men and women in uniform but my nation’s mission. Even if I am not sure what it is. But when shots are fired, I believe we rally round the country and its commander-in-chief.