And while there are a lot of questions left to be answered -- Who pays for this war? Does the Congress need to authorize anything? What are the vital U.S. interests we are trying to protect? -- the question that most concerns me and pertains to readers of this blog is what happens next?
What happens if Gadhafi pulls back? Do we continue to try and press the advantage of the rebels until his government falls? Do we have the authorization to do that? Do we expect a civil war in Libya to drag out, and if so, how will we take sides? If Gadhafi falls, what comes next? What will the new Libyan government look like? Will they be friendly to U.S. interests? Someone please tell me how this ends.
All of these questions are essential. But there's one question he misses: how does intervention in Libya affect prospects for democratization in the rest of the Middle East?
While the plight of the Libyans has been no less than gut-wrenching, we cannot forget the other waves of Arabs who are making the exact same demands for their rights across the region.
Most importantly, we cannot lose sight of Tahrir Square. In every aspect - militarily, economically, politically, historically, religiously/morally - Egypt is far more important to the region than Libya. Egypt is the true domino that the rest of the region will follow. If we can help support a stable transition to a responsible and responsive government in Cairo, regardless of what happens elsewhere, we will have helped score an incredible victory for Egypt, the region, and our own interests in the long run.
We cannot become so engulfed in Libya that we lose sight of the real prize to the east. By dealing with each country on a case-by-case basis, we run exactly that risk.
That is not to say Libyans deserve freedom any less than Egyptians or anyone else. Rather, it is just the recognition of the need for a regional strategy that identifies priorities, deploys our limited resources effectively, and avoids confusion of efforts.