According to Robert Gates, our goal is not to get rid of Ghaddafi. According to the others in the administration, our goal is not to help the rebels. According to Barack Obama, our goal is protect the citizens of Libya. But that then begs the question why he is (A) not going into Darfur, (B) not going into North Korea, and (C) something about keeping GTMO open.
There is not in any way, shape, or form any rational explanation for the United States engaged in Libya to do nothing except for one I can think of — Barack Obama's re-election.
Obama is sitting out negotiations on Capitol Hill for the budget lest he take any ownership of anything that should happen. He wants a government shutdown because that's what Bill Clinton got. But he wants to keep everything away from himself so he can't have any ownership of the shutdown and can instead work to re-open the government.
The other area of Bill Clinton's playbook Obama feels the need to steal from is Kosovo.
In 1995, Scott O'Grady got shot down. The nation became transfixed on Bill Clinton's efforts at securing the Dayton Accord. He looked very Presidential.
Obama has not really had a personal international crisis. Libya gives him exactly that. He can use the U.S. Military to prove he is not afraid of using the U.S. Military. He can look Presidential. He can get Politico drafted "Lewinskies" about how he dared to stop having dinner in Chile for updates on downed American pilots in Libya.
Suddenly Obama can look Presidential again -- all through manufacturing the need for American involvement where there was no need. Barack Obama wants to be re-elected. The best playbook for his re-election is that of Bill Clinton. But Clinton had a government shutdown and Kosovo. In the absence of either, Barack Obama must manufacture them.
And he has.