Jonah Goldberg
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But there are real problems with Obama going to the corners, to use another basketball expression. In the heat of the moment, Obama could have taken out Gadhafi without much of an explanation. But now he must offer a rationale that's very hard to square with what's going on in the rest of the Middle East. Obama says Libyan rebels must be protected from a leader who would kill them "without mercy." OK, does that apply as well to Saudi, Yemeni, Bahraini and Iranian rebels? No? Why not?

And now that America is rescuing losing rebels rather than lending support to winning ones, we will "own" the next Libyan regime. Let's cross our fingers on that score.

Back when Obama seemed to be doing nothing, he was resolute that Gadhafi "must go." But now that he has taken action, we're fighting merely to protect Libyan citizens, as per the U.N. resolution authorizing force. If ousting Gadhafi is in our national interest, why settle for something less in exchange for international support? And what does it mean when -- as is already happening -- Obama's coalition of the willing starts to unravel?

Why does pursuing our national interest hinge on approval from the Arab League and U.N. Security Council -- including the votes of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, Gabon, Lebanon, Nigeria, Portugal and South Africa -- and not Congress? In the heat of the moment, it's understood that presidents can't always wait for congressional approval. But if we can wait for the Gabonese to say yes, surely we can wait for the U.S. Senate.

Obama, who campaigned on ending Middle Eastern wars, not starting them, wanted a war completely on his own terms. He got what he wished for.

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Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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