Allies Struggle with Options in Libya

March 21, 2011  |  

(Wall Street Journal) — Now that U.S. officials say allied forces have established an effective no-fly zone over Libya to hem in the Gadhafi regime’s attacks on rebels, Western leaders have another issue to confront: What to do next.  As quickly as missiles and bombers struck along the Libyan coast to take out Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s air power and defenses, divisions emerged among the coalition that voted the plan into effect Thursday under the aegis of the United Nations. Risks to President Barack Obama’s minimalist approach toward war in Libya were emerging, with Arab support so far limited and disputes over the terms of the engagement.

Leaders in Britain and France made clear they hoped to force Col. Gadhafi’s ouster through the show of force, but that wasn’t an official goal of the U.S. or of the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the campaign. Some American lawmakers and security strategists criticized the White House Sunday for failing to more clearly define the mission.  Some U.S. and European officials said the airstrikes would lead to a mutiny against Col. Gadhafi. But the White House didn’t detail what might happen should the Libyan dictator hang on to power and make good on his pledge to lead an insurgency against rebel and Western forces.  Some rebel leaders said the help came too late, though there were celebrations and an apparent respite from attacks around their command center in Benghazi. The Arab League. whose support was pivotal to the move, said the campaign was overstepping its bounds, and among league members only Qatar made clear it was joining in.

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