The fact that a trio of top Senate Democrats ““ who were highly critical of President George W. Bush’s conduct of the war in Iraq ““ felt compelled to defend a Democratic president who’s launched a new war front shows just how worried some Democrats are about the Libya military action. In fact, Durbin went as far as comparing Obama’s action in Libya to President George H. W. Bush’s international coalition in the first Persian Gulf War. – Senate Democrats defend Obama on Libya

If you’re on defense you’re losing.

As for Democrats being worried, they should be. Libya will by no means be over when Pres. Obama hands the reins to NATO, and the White House begins to market this mess as an accomplishment.

Pres. Obama’s war of choice in Libya was ill conceived and ill planned. There is no foreign policy strategy to pin it to or anything about going in that reveals consistent U.S. thinking. That’s the foundational problem with the whole misadventure, which you can’t call a mission, because there wasn’t one. But there is something equally troubling awaiting us in the wake of what we’ve done.

The daddy of all finish the job lessons came through George W. Bush’s preemptive action in Iraq, led by Dick Cheney and Donald known and unknown Rumsfeld. Greta Van Susteren sat down with Mr. Rumsfeld last night (h/t Yglesias) and listening to what unfolded reminded me of the whole theory of how we ended up back in Iraq. Dick Cheney eventually regretted not finishing the job during the first Gulf War.

It brought to the forefront just how ludicrously dangerous the thinking has been on Libya. That a no-fly zone would be the end of worries for the Libyan people. That with Gadhafi humiliated around the globe, what a megalomaniac like him would do to retaliate against the nations that brought it to bear. Considering the U.S. was the lead on Operation Odyssey Dawn, it puts us in the position where blowback awaits in time.

From the transcript (video at the link):

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess the reason why I have some element of concern because he’s obviously threatened us. I mean, we’ve got our — we’ve got our flyovers. We’ve got our military action. And he says that, you know, he’s going to fight back. And I never know if it’s just sort of an empty threat of someone who’s pathetic or someone who truly does have nuclear or biological or chemical weapons that we simply don’t know about and that he could fight back.

RUMSFELD: I just don’t know the answer, but there’s no question he’s a person who’s engaged in terrorist acts. He’s sponsored them, dealt with terrorist organizations. And he is — he obviously didn’t stay in power for 40 years by being stupid. He’s intelligent and clever and opportunistic. He would not think of trying to compete against our armies or navies or air forces. He would deal — whatever he did would be asymmetric and it would be something that would be unconventional and very likely — and possibly not even something in Libya, something conceivably elsewhere in the world.

[…] […] RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness! He’s been a survivor. He’s been there 40 years. If there continues to be open questions as to whether the coalition’s mission is regime change, I think that there is at least a reasonable possibility that Qaddafi can last it out. And the way he would do that would be to inject fear into anybody who decided to oppose him because the mission of the coalition was not to eliminate his regime. That would be public. That would be known. Once that’s known, people would be quite reluctant to turn against what may very well end up staying in power.

Hearing Pres. Obama say our engagement isn’t war sounds like something a naive person would proffer from fantasyland, not someone leading the most powerful free nation on the planet that’s just started a war against a Libyan mad man whose history of terrorist ties and carnage is legendary. Though it is welcome news to learn about Treasuring freezing his assets, which is some story, with these efforts deserving applause.

Once you choose to start a war for “humanitarian” reasons, but also have declared “Gadhafi must go,” but then you leave your adversary alive and in power to plot, you’ve opened the door to a whole world of unmentionable horror. Can’t assassinate him, particularly under the terms of what you’ve concocted, but you can’t afford to leave him alive either, though that’s exactly what you’ve done.

This is why the U.S. military hates when politicians who don’t understand war decide to play it like it’s a game. You can’t simply let fly a bunch of words to change the dynamic. Once the bombs start dropping all bets are off.

You’d think we’d have learned this by now.