For weeks, I've argued that the United States and our allies should impose a no-fly zone over Libya and mount airstrikes to stop Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi's advance against the embattled rebels. Last week, the United Nations Security Council authorized precisely those actions. Over the weekend, missile strikes began.
I should be elated, right? Instead, I can't stop worrying about everything that could go wrong.
The good news is that Libya's forces are few, badly led and ill armed. American and European missile and air attacks have already shown that we can inflict substantial damage on Colonel Qaddafi's military at scant risk.
The question is whether this will be enough to stop his attacks. Colonel Qaddafi's forces are operating in urban areas where it is extremely difficult to use airpower without killing civilians. His soldiers pulled out of Benghazi after the initial bombing on Sunday, but a rebel attack on the strategically important town of Ajdabiya was repulsed on Monday.
Will the rebels be able to root out Qaddafi loyalists? If not, are we prepared to use Western ground forces? So far President Obama has ruled out that option, which runs the danger of a protracted stalemate. Colonel Qaddafi could simply cling to power, while international support for the whole operation frays.
Even if Colonel Qaddafi steps down—an outcome that I believe we must now seek but that hasn't been declared as a formal aim—the problems hardly end.