Even those who opposed the Libyan entanglement would agree that the west must see this through to an acceptable conclusion. The honour and credibility of the west are now engaged here, writes Max Hastings of the Financial Times.
The world's agenda changes with bewildering speed. The conflict in Libya has receded in public consciousness, displaced by Syria and the killing of Osama bin Laden. This offers some relief to the leaders of Britain, France and the US, who initiated a western intervention that has won limited support from other Nato or Arab nations, and failed to trigger the swift eviction of Muammer Gaddafi.
But more decisions on Libya will soon be required. A 60-day review of the Nato mandate is due on 31 May, a 90-day review on 30 June. Officers are drafting options for their political masters, amid the yawning gap between military means and declared ends that has been apparent from the outset.
Planning is hampered by poor intelligence. Uncertainty persists about whether – as the British and French governments assert – Libya's inland tribes are eagerly awaiting liberation from Colonel Gaddafi, or whether they retain a real loyalty to their erratic leader. Are the western nations bombing Libya in the cause of its national freedom, or merely in support of the weaker faction in a civil war – the coastal tribes of Cyrenaica? We do not know.