Greg Scoblete notes that apparent success does not make foolish wars any wiser:
Taking the country to war when vital U.S. interests are not at stake is not a good idea even if the U.S. manages to skate by without investing much in blood and treasure.
Likewise, starting wars against states that do not threaten and have not attacked the U.S. or our allies is the wrong thing to do. Starting a war against a government that had abandoned unconventional weapons and terrorism in exchange for normal relations makes even less sense. For over 150 days, the U.S. and our allies have bombed a country whose government and people had done nothing to any of us for a very long time. This may or may not lead to the establishment of a better political order in Libya, but it is one more disturbing expression of a militarized and unrestrained foreign policy that routinely treats the internal affairs of other states as our business. The Libyan war set the bar for future military action very low, and the direct costs were not very great, which means that the U.S. will likely find itself engaged in more interventions in the coming years.
Here in the U.S., the administration acted as if it had the authority to wage war on its own authority. At the same time, it denied that it was claiming this authority, and went so far as to pretend that the U.S. was not waging war in Libya. Despite some murmuring and a few mostly symbolic votes in the House, Congress utterly failed to meet its constitutional obligations, and it has provided to future administrations a ready-made precedent for launching arbitrary wars. The war in Libya has been an illegal one that made a mockery of our system of government. What could Americans possibly have to celebrate about this?
Starting their war in the name of protecting the civilian population, the intervening governments prolonged and expanded the ongoing civil war for the sake of achieving regime change, and then they pretended that this wasn’t what they were doing. The Libyan civil war arguably didn’t qualify for military action under the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, and the intervention exceeded its legal mandate months ago. As I wrote for World Politics Review in June:
Unfortunately, because the intervention long ago exceeded its mandate, it has likely contributed to greater evils than those it was intended to prevent, and its chances of success in protecting the population have therefore diminished greatly.
It is more than a little curious that some Libyan war supporters would now insist on arguing for “the utility, necessity, and morality of” R2P when the governments waging the Libyan war have done more than any of the doctrine’s critics to discredit it in the eyes of many other governments. Toppling Gaddafi does not vindicate the doctrine. It confirms that the Libyan war stopped having much to do with the doctrine several months ago.