The war in Libya is going the way many feared it would, mushrooming into a deeper conflict with even wider U.S. involvement.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that the U.S. now has CIA agents on the ground in Libya. This, despite assurances from President Barack Obama on Monday that the conflict would not involve U.S. ground forces.
The agents, assuredly ex-military people, are linking up with rebels on the ground and calling in coordinates for airstrikes.
All of which confirms that this mission has expanded way beyond the original U.N. mandate of merely protecting civilians.
U.S. people are on the ground in Libya, carrying out military work in a foreign civil war, all without congressional approval or public support.
But this is often the way U.S. presidents back into wars of choice.
Some readers will be reminded of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964, which gradually opened the door to involving U.S. troops in Vietnam.
At the time, two U.S. senators opposed the war, including Ernest Gruening, D-Alaska, who complained about entering a war in which “we have no business, which is not our war, into which we have been misguidedly drawn, which is steadily being escalated.”
Gruening might as well have been describing our involvement in Libya.
Obama, however, didn’t even seek the fig leaf of congressional approval for this war. The first missiles were fired while the president was on a trip to Latin America.
Obama said he had been urged by Arab and European leaders to enter this fray.
Which should have told him that the Libyan revolution was more their problem than ours.
Most Libyan oil goes directly to Europe. Italy, in fact, gets 20 percent of its oil from that country.
Meanwhile, France, Italy and several Arab nations fear a refugee crisis if Moammar Gadhafi’s forces are allowed to push rebels out of eastern Libya.
These other nations all have air forces, armies and navies that could have carried out this mission.
Instead, U.S. forces again form the backbone of this operation.
Now, there is the inevitable talk of the U.S. arming the rebels, who are outgunned by Gadhafi’s forces.
Will the U.S. supply weapons to people we don’t even know? Will we need trainers on the ground to teach them how to use those weapons?
Some are even looking beyond this war to the eventual overthrow of Gadhafi’s forces and the cost of rebuilding the country.
Will the U.S. be called upon to lead that rebuilding effort, as well?
On March 17, Obama told lawmakers that U.S. military involvement in Libya would last “days, not weeks.”
Two weeks later, we can only hope he meant to say weeks, not months.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.