Walter Russell Mead explains how overthrowing Gaddafi limited our options with Iran.
Meanwhile, many analysts agree that the war in Libya, brilliant and strategic though it appeared to the White House at the time, may be making our options regarding Iran more limited. The west made a deal with Gaddafi: stop your nuclear program and we will treat you with respect. He kept his end of the bargain and we dispatched him to his eternal reward. What assurances can we now give the mullahs that would induce them to believe that they will be safe without nukes?
This makes it less likely that President Obama's approach to Iran, infinitely more important for the future of US foreign policy than anything that has happened or could happen in Libya, will succeed. There is no pledge Obama could give the mullahs that can offer them the same protection that a bomb would give them; the "duty to protect" crowd does not believe it needs to honor any sort of pre-existing pledge to a leader it decides is "bad," while reserving the right to strike anyone, anywhere, anytime, should a moral mood befall us. For Iran, the lesson of Libya is that the West will tell you anything to get you to give up the quest for nuclear weapons, but none of the beautiful pledges can be trusted. At the first sign of weakness, they will intervene to overthrow you.
Thank goodness the Bush crowd and those awful neocons are gone.
Of course, as WRM notes, international diplomacy is hard and there often aren't any good options.