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I got on a plane in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I spent the morning trying to explain the war in Afghanistan to students and alumni of my high school -- how the war started, why we are still there after nine years, how the war has changed since 2008, and where I see the war headed in 2011. I got off the plane in Washington, DC and learned that we have apparently decided, while I was in flight, to go to war with the government of Libya. Which is to say that we are going to use military force to achieve a political end that has thus far eluded us through peaceful means.
I had dinner with my 85-year old grandmother last night, easily the hardest woman I know, who basically subscribes to Conan's view of what is best in life. Even she doesn't want to go to war. But it seems as if that is where we are headed. And while there are a lot of questions left to be answered -- Who pays for this war? Does the Congress need to authorize anything? What are the vital U.S. interests we are trying to protect? -- the question that most concerns me and pertains to readers of this blog is what happens next?
What happens if Gadhafi pulls back? Do we continue to try and press the advantage of the rebels until his government falls? Do we have the authorization to do that? Do we expect a civil war in Libya to drag out, and if so, how will we take sides? If Gadhafi falls, what comes next? What will the new Libyan government look like? Will they be friendly to U.S. interests? Someone please tell me how this ends.
A lot of the things I have been reading have been along the lines of, "After the dictator falls, everything will be alright," which sounds awfully familiar to Iraq '03 veterans. I would hope that this time around, we are planning Phase IV and have a clear vision for how stabilization and reconstruction should go.
I worry for obvious reasons, but clearly, I hope this U.N. resolution alone forces Gadhafi's hand and either causes him to step down or encourages someone in his inner circle to knock him off and cut a deal with the rebels. But hope is not a strategy, and along with that Phase IV planning I was talking about, I would also like to hear a little more about our strategic goals here.
It really does seem like we are going to go to war with another country in the Arabic-speaking world. Incredible. I should be thankful for the broad international coalition we have put together, and for the fact that a large ground invasion is unlikely, but I mainly just have a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach.