Center for American Progress

United States Should Clearly Define Goals in Libya

United States Should Clearly Define Goals in Libya

The Obama administration should take great care in clearly defining what it wants to achieve in Libya and what costs it is asking Americans to bear as another Middle East war unfolds.

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It only took a few hours of military strikes in Libya by the United States and European countries over the past weekend to achieve the thing most of Washington debated for the past few weeks—a no-fly zone. The fact that the Qaddafi regime lost its ability to conduct air operations so quickly was no big surprise—despite a lot of time and energy misspent debating a no-fly zone—but that was hardly the most difficult question.

As with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the most important question also is the most basic question: What do we want to get done and how much are we willing to sacrifice in lives, money, and strategic opportunity costs to achieve those ends? And with another Middle East war now underway, the Obama administration now faces a second important question: How does it strike the right balance in its overall approach in a region experiencing historic developments every day?

Getting the answers to these questions right is imperative because the Obama administration’s Middle East multitasking grows more complicated each day. The United States cannot afford to get bogged down on another front.

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