Muammar Gaddafi, 1942-2011

The Libyan government says that the former dictator has been killed; the proof is in blurry, bloody video of the unmistakably putty-faced Gaddafi being carted around. Warning: This is not a pleasant video.

I was about to go and predict the reaction, but Spencer Ackerman has gone and done it already. Expect Tom Friedman to write “Why Gadhafi’s Death Vindicates ‘Leading From Behind,’” and “On To Damascus, Then Teheran” from The Weekly Standard! We started to get that commentary after was forced out. The conservative attack on “leading from behind” made sense when the United States’ limited committment to Libya wasn’t producing anything, but reading those criticisms now, they really do come off as kneejerk and factless. Here was Tim Pawlenty. (He ran for president for a while.)

I think I was the first national figure on March 7th, Hugh, to call for the establishment of the no-fly zone in Libya. But it needed to be done quickly and decisively, because at that time, the rebels had the momentum, they took over most of the geography in Libya, there were news reports about Gaddafi openly going voluntarily. And I think the threat of, and certainly the imposition of it quickly, decisively, in that moment, would have pushed him out and nudged him out. But unfortunately, the President took another three or four weeks, and now we’ve got what we’ve got, and it’s an untenable, and I think a very bad series of events for President Obama when he says Gaddafi’s got to go, but now he can’t make him go, because he’s handcuffed by a U.N. resolution.

Only Pawlenty could have done this! The situation was untenable! Romney, who hasn’t opened himself up to as many long interviews, didn’t ever say that his strategic genius could have taken out Gaddafi, but he was probably the most coherent and important pusher of the idea that Barack Obama apologized too much, and used military power too haphhazardly, to be effective.

There was one very narrow question about the handling of the Libya decision this summer: Had Obama blown it? It’s pretty clear now that he didn’t.