With the overall strategy and goals of the war in Libya still largely undefined, Western officials are once again downplaying the possibility of some sort of “victory” in the conflict. Instead, officials are talking up the possibility of a stalemate.
British Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey, who spoke extensively about the conflict, insisted that a stalemate could be seen as “achieving the humanitarian objective,” and also conceded there is nothing resembling an “exit strategy” for the conflict. He did not rule out further escalation, however, and said Britain and others might yet send ground troops.
This has raised the possibility, at least in the near term, of a partition of the nation between East and West Libya. There are historical arguments to support this as a solution, but an attempt to impose a partition along lines favorable to NATO is likely to fuel considerable resentment as well.
Mostly, however, the issue is that Western nations can’t agree, sometimes even internally, about what the mission is. President Obama even wavered in a speech Monday in Chile, when he first insisted the US was supporting the UN mandate, then claimed his goal was “regime change.” That change is bound to involve dramatic escalation of an already controversial war, and could lead to another Iraq-style long-term occupation.