No One Really Wants to Be in Charge in LibyaS

NATO agreed on Thursday night to take complete command of military operations in Libya. Psych! NATO is only leading the part that involves flying jets around, while the U.S., France and the UK are stuck doing the "actual war stuff" (technical term).

So, "we" are all up in Libya now, with our planes and so forth, and by most accounts the action has been not a huge disaster, and maybe even reasonably successful at stopping the mass death of civilians. Hurrah? The thing is, "we" don't want to be in charge, because we are already waging six or seven other wars, and the pro-war political party is also anti-black president, and also, "the economy," or whatever. So let's just hand this bad boy over to NATO, take a step back, and say we cancelled out Vietnam, okay?

Except that, hold up, NATO doesn't really want to be in charge of Libya 2: The Legend of Qaddafi's Gold. Well, they're okay with taking command of the easy part—maintaining the no-fly zone, which now extends along the entire Libyan coast, and preventing the sale of arms to Qaddafi. (This is the part unlikely to result in civilian casualties.) But objections from NATO signatories Germany and Turkey over the scope of the U.N. resolution that allowed military action in the first place mean that the so-called "no-drive zone"—the aggressive airstrikes on Qaddafi's troops and certain military installations intended to stop the advance of ground troops—is still under the auspices of France, the United Kingdom, and... us. (Gosh, why is it so hard to convince people to enter into an open-ended campaign of airstrikes against a dictator in an oil-rich Arab country?)

Luckily, having two different military operations in the same country working under separate command structures is really safe and sensible, and is unlikely to lead to miscommunication, confusion, and dead people. (To be fair, war in general leads to miscommunication, confusion, and dead people.) So what's the plan? For now, we cross our fingers and hope it works. More negotiations are taking place, and the U.S. is putting pressure on Turkey and Germany to agree to a full NATO command, which would be best for a variety of reasons. But until then—hopefully, only a few more days—the weird hard part of this war thing is ours to share with France and the United Kingdom.

[WSJ]