The Libya intervention debate has evolved at lightning speed this week. House Speaker John Boehner blasted President Obama Wednesday night, calling Obama's explanation of why the U.S. is bombing Libya "limited" and "sometimes contradictory," and saying it was "regrettable" that Congress wasn't consulted. Congress will likely hold hearings on the issue next week. But only last Sunday, Boehner insisted that the U.S. had a "moral obligation" to do something for the Libyan rebels. He's not the only one to switch.
Prominent Republicans began to urge military intervention in Tripoli to prevent the slaughter of civilians in February. Republican demands for decisive action felt unanimous to the extent that Matt Latimer, former chief speechwriter for Donald Rumsfeld, lamented in The Daily Beast this Tuesday that the GOP had become "the party of war." He complained that the GOP is is "always eager to deploy America’s sons and daughters to war zones, but who never do the fighting themselves."
But even as Latimer was writing, Republican talking points had already begun to shift, as Jon Stewart noted on The Daily Show that night. Hawks like Sen. John McCain and former U.N. ambassador John Bolton flipped from insisting on a no-fly zone to expressing disappointment that Obama hadn't bombed more, sooner, better. Newt Gingrich completely reversed his position, calling for an intervention March 7 and saying he wouldn't have intervened March 23. The conditions in Libya, Gingrich said, just didn't merit an American intervention when there are so many other bad guys in the world.
Latimer's old boss, Donald Rumsfeld, also isn't happy with the intervention, though mostly because of the way it was conducted. He told Politico that Obama had lined up allies and then crafted the mission--exactly the wrong order. “If peoples’ lives are at risk and you’re using military forces, you need to have a rather clear understanding as to who’s in charge and who’s making the decisions.” As Politico's Glenn Thrush and Abby Phillip note with reference to Iraq, Rumsfeld "knows a thing or two about the hazards of poor planning."
Certainly these Republicans are reacting at least in part to the delay in intervening and the way the intervention was conducted, rather than to the idea of intervention itself. Yet regardless of your view on Obama's strategy, the super accelerated rate of change in the Libya debate means that we've reached places it took years for us to get to during the Iraq war.
How far will the reaction against Obama's first war go? Obama can take comfort in the fact that 60 percent of Americans support the no-fly zone in polling. America's own uprisings won't be happening just yet.