Uri Friedman at The Atlantic tells us the French have become rather… nuanced about the Libyan war effort:
France, you may recall, urged a reluctant U.S. to intervene military in Libya and was the first country to officially recognize the Libyan rebels and provide the opposition with direct military aid–measures the U.S. has cautiously sidestepped.
So it was surprising on Sunday when French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said France was prepared to halt the bombing if the Libyan rebels and Muammar Qaddafi’s loyalists agreed to lay down arms and negotiate, because there was “no solution with force.” When asked if talks could take place without Qaddafi relinquishing power, as the opposition demands, Longuet added, “He will be in another room in his palace with another title.”
Whoa, wait a second, hold the phone. There is “no solution with force?” NOW they tell us! The objective has become forcing Qaddafi to relocate to another room in his palace, and change his title? That hardly seems worth an illegal war to achieve. Why not just leave Qaddafi in the same room, and send in some French commandos to switch out the nameplate on his office door when he’s not looking?
The French Foreign Ministry rushed to “distance itself a bit” from the remarks of the Defense Minister:
Foreign Minister Alain Juppe clarified that NATO still needed to “keep up the military pressure” on Qaddafi, and Valero noted that “any political solution must begin with Qaddafi’s withdrawal from power and abandonment of any political role.” Juppe added, however, that France is simultaneously working to broker a political solution based on a genuine ceasefire and left open the possibility that Qaddafi could cede power but remain in Libya.
That’s not really much “distance.” I guess the Foreign Ministry is tougher, because they haven’t floated the idea of allowing Qaddafi to remain in the same building when he “cedes power but remains in Libya.”
This is what happens when a multi-lateral circus starts deploying ordnance without a clear set of victory conditions. “Victory” will apparently become whatever outcome France is willing to settle for, now that the outright defeat of Qaddafi seems unlikely.
French television has apparently been complaining about the high cost of the Libyan operation, pegged at “a million euros a day.” Inconclusive wars become economic propositions. Who’s going to break under the financial strain first: a billionaire dictator who wants nothing more than to cling to power… or a group of heavily indebted European welfare states, and their equally insolvent American sugar daddy?