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Voting Present on Steroids: The Obama Administration Prepares to take Both Sides in the Libyan Civil War

Let me begin by saying, though the date on this post is 4/1/2011, this is not an April Fool’s gag – it’s real.

I. Fresh off claiming victory not over Qaddafi, but over responsibility itself, with its touted handoff of the war kinetic military effort to itself-under-different-name, the Obama administration is now swinging the guns around on those on whose behalf we have, until now, been firing, and is threatening to start bombarding the rebels along with Qaddafi’s military.

This is an amazing change of direction for an administration which spent the last several days not only defending its rush to war on behalf of a group about which it had little knowledge, but openly defending its right to arm the Libyan opposition, while reportedly debating whether or not it would exercise that supposed right – though, as Scott Johnson writes at Power Line, it may “be more accurate to say that Obama was holding the debate with himself: “I’m not ruling it out. But I’m also not ruling it in,” Obama told NBC News in an interview Tuesday evening.”

Johnson suggested that Obama may “be able to rule on [arming the Libyan opposition] once he figures out who the heck the “rebels” are.”  However, the needle appears to have swung right past the answer to that question on the Wheel-of-Kinetic-Military-Decision, and to have landed on the “go after the other side too!” panel.

In other words, we’ve apparently (finally) learned enough about this group of rebels/al Qaeda terrorists/rapists-and-indiscriminant-killers/who-knows-what-else that we’ve been fighting alongside (primarily from 15,000 feet and up, of course) that the Obama administration is now ready to fight them, as well – an action which would, amazingly and dumbfoundingly, make the U.S. a participant in both sides of an Arab civil war being fought in the desert of North Africa.  Just amazing.

The realization of who it is they rushed into war to support must be hitting Samantha Power, President Obama, and their band of merry humanitarian interventionists pretty hard.  This is worse than waking up and finding the person you brought home last night required beer goggles about eighteen bottles thick to seem attractive. Rather, it’s akin to bringing home the already-not-so-hot girl who was hanging out alone in a dark corner of the bar, only to find out shortly after leaving with her that she’s actually a hairy-backed man man named Steve (or, in this case, something more like Abdul Hakim al Hasadi).

As Allahpundit notes at Hot Air:

“The fact that they think violence against defenseless people by their putative ally is so likely that deterring it requires a formal warning backed by a threat of bombardment tells you a lot about how suspicious the coalition is of its new best friends. Good thing the CIA vetting process is ongoing; hopefully we’ll find out whether they’re good guys or bad guys before they’re installed in power.”

II. Allahpundit also makes the good point that a serious obstacle to the “protection of civilians” which is the supposed basis for our engagement in combat against Qaddafi’s forces now, as well as the basis for our potential engagement of the opposition, as well, is the basic task of identifying who the civilians are, as opposed to who makes up legitimate military targets.  OGA operatives on the ground can only do so much, particularly when (1) so much of the combat is taking place in Libya’s few cities, and (2) participants, like the events themselves, appear to be incredibly fluid.

As Bruce McQuain writes (via Jim Geraghty):

As this mess, this civil war ebbs and flows, telling red and blue from white is going to verge on impossible.  And with reports of Gadhafi arming civilians (one assumes to enable them to defend themselves) NATO also gets to decide whether or not armed civilians are fair game. This is the sort of situations you find yourself in when you commit to “dumb wars”.  But then our fearless leader knows all about “dumb wars”, he doesn’t want to fight them.  And yet, there he is, fighting one in Libya.

At the Corner, Peter Kirsanow treats this comedy routine like, well, a comedy routine:

We bombed Qaddafi’s forces because they were killing civilians. So Qaddafi’s forces began dressing like civilians. So the rebels began killing civilians. So NATO is warning the rebels not to kill civilians, otherwise NATO will bomb the rebels. But the rebels are dressed like civilians.So NATO may end up killing civilians.

In other news, the administration continues to debate arming the rebels who are dressed like civilians. But Qaddafi’s forces are also dressed like civilians. So we may be arming Qaddafi’s forces who are killing civilians while we also bomb the rebels who are killing civilians and bombing civilians who really are civilians but look like Qaddafi’s forces who are killing civilians.

Who’s on first?

III. Meanwhile, as the Obama administration is warning those on whose side we’ve been fighting in this Libyan civil war that we may start bombing them, too, just for good measure – and as his administration is warning Congress it will ignore any bills they pass to restrict U.S. involvement in Libya, and as the Secretary of Defense claims we’re about to withdraw our fighters from combat and “hope” our allies will pick up the slack – calls are increasing for a full ground invasion of this North African desert country.

Leaving aside the fact that our military is pretty significantly occupied elsewhere, if the idea of launching a ground invasion of another country not only to intervene in its civil war, but potentially to fight against both sides, sounds to you like the height of folly, then you’re probably thinking fairly clearly.  However, based on the amount of talk and effort that Obama has put into his kinetic military action against Qaddafi’s forces (but not against Qaddafi himself, of course), it seems to be growing more and more likely that the only way the U.S. can escape this conflict with its reputation even the slightest bit intact is by pouring into this desert country and simply cleaning house all around.  Whether this will happen is an open question, as is the level of commitment Obama would actually have toward doing the job completely and correctly once Americans are on the ground in force in Libya.

I happen to think that even if he did order a ground invasion – something that is unlikely to happen until well after the situation there has spiraled far, far beyond control – Obama would continue to dither on objectives, rules of engagement, etc. to such a degree that the level of bloodshed there on all sides, including our own, could reach a staggering level.

While it is the cornered animal which is the most dangerous, that danger isn’t limited to its opponent alone. If Obama sees himself getting put further into a corner on Libya, the prospect that he will further escalate U.S. involvement in that civil war as a result becomes more real and more frightening. Unfortunately, given what he’s already put into this effort – particularly his repeated boasts about our involvement, the likely outcome, and the message it should send to dictators elsewhere – it’s difficult to see how the U.S. avoids repeat exposure as a paper tiger if we don’t end up going all-in in pursuit of whatever “victory” in Libya may mean at this point.

On balance, it seems that avoiding involvement in an unimportant nation’s own civil war, and letting Europe fight its own war for oil, may have been the better decision for the U.S.  Unfortunately, the president didn’t bother listening to that argument, and here we are as a result.

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