Saturday, March 19, 2011
In diplomatic terms, international military action against Libya's leader went from the brainstorming stage to the shooting-at-tanks stage with stunning speed.
Saturday's launch of U.S., British and French airstrikes with Arab backing and U.N. mandate was not universally endorsed. And it's unclear whether it will be fast enough to do what its proponents want, to shore up rebel forces and oust Libya's leader Moammar Gadhafi.
But the cascade of quick, weighty decisions getting there was unusual - just one of the unusual things about this dramatic operation.
It has the backing of the Arab League, which has balked at other interventions in the Arab world and is known more for lengthy deliberations than action.
And it was initiated by the French, who famously opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
It was French President Nicolas Sarkozy who announced that 22 participants in an emergency summit in Paris on Saturday had agreed to launch armed action against Gadhafi's military. And a French fighter jet reported the first strike Saturday afternoon, against a Libyan military vehicle in or near Benghazi, the heart of the uprising against the longtime leader, before over a hundred cruise missiles fired from U.S and British ships slammed into this north African nation.
The action in Libya came after the international community was slow to respond to swelling protests in Tunisia and then Egypt in January and February that toppled longtime autocrats and sparked uprisings around the Arab world.
Leaders and diplomats dawdled less when Libya's Gadhafi started shooting at protesters.