Less than a month ago, President Obama said the parameters of the U.N. resolution in Libya were clear: "protecting innocent civilians within Libya and holding the Qaddafi regime accountable." But the boundaries appeared to have shifted from accountability to ouster. In a joint op-ed written with David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, Obama said, "So long as Qaddafi is in power, NATO must maintain its operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds." The strongly worded missive came after tension with Sarkozy, who has encouraged an increasingly aggressive response to the conflict in Libya, and other European leaders over whether the alliance wasn't doing enough to back the rebels. Qaddafi's forces, for example, have been bombing Misrata for weeks. Yesterday, loyalists shelled the city's port, blocking the only exit for residents, killing at least twenty, and stopping a boat chartered by Doctors Without Borders to evacuate the wounded.
The op-ed stresses that there will be no direct military action to remove Qaddafi but makes it sound as though the allies will play a role in defining or enforcing whatever regime replaces him.
Our duty and our mandate under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that. It is not to remove Qaddafi by force. But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power. The International Criminal Court is rightly investigating the crimes committed against civilians and the grievous violations of international law. It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government.
U.S. officials say they hope that the threat of a lengthy campaign would increase pressure on Qaddafi's inner circle to force him to leave Libya. But Obama's redefined campaign comes without a specific timeline.