I haven’t the foggiest notion what the President should have done or should do about Libya; I’m not even sure what he is doing. So I’m going to comment on side-issues instead:
1. It was unfair to call opponents of the Iraq War “unpatriotic.” If they thought the war was a bad idea, it was patriotic to say so. Especially since they turned out to be right. On the other hand, the word “unpatriotic” seems to apply reasonably precisely to the Republicans who last week were denouncing Obama for not intervening in Libya and are now, as our planes are in the air, giving Gaddafi every possible signal that he is not in fact facing a United States of America.
2. One clear disadvantage of the intervention: We’ve now signaled all the tin-pot dictators in the world that there’s benefit in having nukes (N. Korea) and no protection from renouncing nukes. That’s not the signal we wanted to give.
3. And yes, it’s depressing that “conservatives” – and some liberals – oppose cheap humanitarian measures that don’t involve killing people, but have no problem with expensive humanitarian measures that do involve killing people. It’s not that Tomahawks directly compete with bed-nets, but it’s hard to figure out an argument for paying for Tomahawks but not bed-nets, if the point is to relieve human suffering.
If you support the Libyan venture but not bed-nets, is it the killing you like, or is it spending lots of public money?