The Question Barack Obama Should Answer in Tonight's Libya Address

President Obama will finally deliver an address tonight on the current bomb-everything campaign being waged in Libya. It may just be vague rhetoric about the moral need to prevent a massacre without addressing the more granular elements of day-to-day strategy and on which one of those specific days it will end. But if you start bombing a country, you should give a single address of any sort to the folks who pay for those bombs.

If the president does get into details, he should try to clarify the fundamental strategic question that's prompted, again, by reports of today's developments. From the New York Times:

TRIPOLI, Libya - As rebel forces backed by allied warplanes pushed toward one of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi's most crucial bastions of support, the American military warned on Monday that the insurgents' rapid advances could quickly be reversed without continued coalition air support.

"The regime still vastly overmatches opposition forces militarily," Gen. Carter F. Ham, the ranking American in the coalition operation, warned in an email message on Monday. "The regime possesses the capability to roll them back very quickly. Coalition air power is the major reason that has not happened."

There's no need to have another diddling semantic debate about whether this operation is "war" or a "brief humanitarian rescue jaunt" or something. The military's words clearly show that we're taking sides in a civil war. That question has been answered.

So this is what we'd like to see Obama address tonight: If the rebels will be "rolled back" or massacred whenever coalition support stops, then when, and under what conditions, will coalition support stop? This is the basic question that a U.N. mandate to protect the citizens of a country by "any means necessary" inevitably poses, and it hasn't been answered yet.

[Image via AP]