The “get Qaddafi” meme in this Libya affair has never made sense, to me at least.
When he was seriously active in terrorism back in the 1970s and 80s, Qaddafi was a Soviet client. If the Soviets did not outsource those jobs to Qaddafi, then they condoned them. If they did not like what he was doing it is likely they would have found a way to punish him. So in that regard, Qaddafi’s terrorism was largely a Cold War artifact.
When the U.S. got involved in this Libyan civil war, Qaddafi was already long a fossilized tyrant. In that capacity he was responding to the wave of upheaval in the Middle East as it reached Libya. As far as relations with the U.S. were going, he had cooperated in giving up his nuclear program for some degree of normalized relations. We’ve so easily turned on him that it must give pause to other antagonists who contemplate normalization.
Meanwhile, the early results are already in for the Egyptian variant of the upheaval, and the Egyptian military is cooperating with the Muslim Brotherhood as the next phase of the revolution.
So, here we are proposing that not getting Qaddafi will mean failure, therefore ending Qaddafi’s regime is the optimum outcome. Yet we already have a pretty good idea of what replaces him: a new government dominated by an Islamist faction.
What’s the purpose here? It sounds very much to me like we are fighting the last war, and that is always the wrong war to be fighting. Especially when we seem to be fighting it for Europeans and Islamists, who constitute a strange blended consituency for American military power.