President's have always justified using force in different ways, whether for humanitarian, economic, or to protect the country. But when the decision is made to use the military, there needs to be clear goals. If you are positive military action is necessary, it should be obvious what you want to get out of it. In Libya though, no one seems to know when the strikes will stop or what will be accomplished by them.
As a communist country, Libya has been a thorn in America's side for decades. The jabs have been over its nuclear weapons, and the times Qadhafi tried to take over other countries in Africa. But recently things were going well. Just a few years ago Qadhafi decided to let inspectors to look at his nuclear facilities and accepted responsibility for the
Lockerbie bombing. But then he started killing innocent protestors.
I can't help but remember what President Obama said during his speech when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. "To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason." With all the protests going on in the Middle East and North Africa, it was only a matter of time before it became violent, and in Libya's this case the military was needed.
While agreeing to use the military, what bothers me is that there does not seem to be an end in sight. General Ham, who is in charge of this operation, has said there are no plans to go after Qadhafi and its mission is to protect the civilians. But how do you protect civilians without attacking the person who is trying to kill them? At one of the daily briefings, the UN spokesman said they have not decided whether the rebels were going to be considered citizens or casualties of war, because, technically, this isn't a war.
One of the country's leading military experts, (and one of my former professors) Michael O' Hanlon, told me in an email that "I don't know where it ends but I don't favor a military operation to overthrow Qaddafi". He also pointed out that the mission has already gone beyond a no fly zone because Libya's tanks have been taken out. But even without tanks, the government forces are much better armed than the rebels fighting them.
It is also unclear how many people are actually fighting against the government. While next door in Egypt the military held a non-violent coup, there have only been a handful of military officers who sacrificed themselves and chose not to fight. But if Qaddafi is going to be forced from office, the majority of the Libyan people are going to have to sacrifice the most.
Qadhaffi has shown no signs of slowing down and has placed his troops on the country's borders where thousands of civilians are trying to escape. To make matters worse, UN workers are not able to get into the country where there are even more displaced people who need help.
There doesn't seem to be much middle ground anymore. At this moment, both sides seem to be waiting for the other to stop, and no one is putting on the breaks. That's why the coalition supporting this operation is going to have to decide whether or not to try and find Qadhaffi or pull out.