When he launched his strikes on the Libyan army and regime, Barack Obama did not think it through. And this nation is now likely to be drawn even deeper into that war.
For Moammar Gadhafi's forces not only survived the U.S. air and missile strikes, after which we turned the air war over to NATO, his forces have since shown themselves superior to the rebels. Without NATO, the rebels would have been routed a month ago.
And, today, NATO itself stands a chance of being humiliated.
"NATO's Bomb Supply Is Running Short," ran Saturday's headline in The Washington Post over a story that began thus:
"Less than a month into the Libyan conflict, NATO is running short of precision bombs, highlighting the limitations of Britain, France and other European countries in maintaining even a relatively small military action over an extended period of time. ...
"The shortage of European munitions, along with the limited number of aircraft available, has raised doubts ... about whether the United States can continue to avoid returning to the air campaign if Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi hangs on to power."
Only six NATO nations have planes running strikes on the Libyan army, and the French and British, who are doing most of the bombing, are running out of laser-guided munitions. And their planes are not equipped to handle U.S. smart bombs.
NATO air attacks are thus becoming less precise and lethal, as Gadhafi is pounding Misrata, the last rebel-held city in the west, and his army is again contesting Ajdabiya, the gateway to Benghazi.
In short, the war is not going well. Where does this leave us?
If the United States does not get back on the field, the Libyan army will likely crush resistance in Misrata and push the rebels back to Benghazi and Tobruk.
As the rebels lack the soldiering experience or organization to conduct an offensive, and their NATO air arm is weakening, the best they can probably hope for in the near term is to hold on to what they have in the east. Which means a stalemate -- a no-win war.
Can Obama accept such an outcome to a war he started, at the outset of which he declared Gadhafi must go? Can he go into 2012 with Republicans mocking him for picking a fight with Gadhafi, then losing it for the United States? Can Obama leave Gadhafi in Tripoli knowing he is plotting terror attacks against America in reprisal?
If Gadhafi survives, does Obama survive?
Can he tell the beleaguered British and French we are not going to double down on our folly of having started this war?