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Beware: Widespread Mission Creep Underway in Libya

One should be wary about this intervention, whether or not one believes it is justified.

However one views the morality of the Libyan “intervention,” the murkiness of its objectives and the rapid speed with which the conflict has escalated should offer deep misgivings about the ostensibly humanitarian venture.

Consider the bait-and-switch. The U.S. role in the intervention was sold to the American people as a very limited one: we'd help enforce a no-fly zone. In his speech on Monday, Obama said that "broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake." A day later, Senator Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina – a member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee -- told CNN, "the goal of this country is to replace Gadhafi." That same day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters, "Gadhafi has lost the legitimacy to lead, so we believe he must go. We're working with the international community to try to achieve that outcome.”

Spencer Ackerman also reported this week that Nato's top commander “left the door open” for ground troops to follow:

During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island asked Adm. James Stavridis about NATO putting forces into “post-Gadhafi” Libya to make sure the country doesn’t fall apart. Stavridis said he “wouldn’t say NATO’s considering it yet.” But because of NATO’s history of putting peacekeepers in the Balkans — as pictured above — “the possibility of a stabilization regime exists.”

“So welcome to a new possible 'endgame' for Libya,” wrote Ackerman. “Western troops patrolling Libya’s cities during a a shaky transition after Moammar Gadhafi’s regime has fallen, however that’s supposed to happen.”

Meanwhile, according to a series of reports this week, the U.S. has opened up a covert war in Libya. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration has issued a “covert finding” authorizing the CIA to “to carry out a clandestine effort to provide arms and other support to Libyan opposition groups.”

According to the Wall Street Journal , operatives are already on the ground, “feeding intelligence on ground targets to the U.S. military and coalition forces for airstrikes and reaching out to rebels aligned against Col. Moammar Gadhafi.”

Reading between the lines of a McClatchy report this week suggests that the new general commanding the “rebel army,” Khalifa Hifter, is a CIA asset. According to the report, Hifter “spent the past two decades in suburban Virginia but felt compelled — even in his late 60s — to return to the battlefield in his homeland, according to people who know him.” Langley, where the CIA is headquartered, is in “suburban Virginia,” and a close acquaintance interviewed by McClatchy said he was 'unsure exactly what Hifter did to support himself.”

All of this doesn't represent an example of “mission creep” -- it's mission leap.

And while the media continually talks about Libya's “rebel army,” national security analyst and Iraq war vet Rafael Noboa y Rivera argues that, like it or not, we'll be in Libya for an extended period in large part because “the Libyan rebel army doesn’t exist.”

What you’re seeing on CNN/MSNBC/BBC/your evening news is a rabble. A gang. Those guys on pickup trucks? They’re, at best, military tourists. You maybe have about 1,000 people in the Libyan rebel rabble that could compose the nucleus of a fighting force. It’s not just a question of providing them with arms. By now, the Libyan countryside is swimming with weapons. The rebels have access to weapons, and they have access to ammunition.

“The longer the rebels take to defeat Qadhdhafi,” he adds, “the greater the chances are that you’ll see ground forces deployed to Libya, regardless of what President Obama says.”

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