Here is a brilliant response by a blogger in just such a discussion.
While I agree that it is a critical question, I also recognize that "end game" is a question that it is not the U.S. place to answer, if this was truly a humanitarian intervention. And since my support for it is predicated upon it having been a humanitarian intervention, "end game for Libya" is a question that has to be answered by Libyans, not pundits, or commenters or even policy analysts sitting in the U.S...
So, uncertainty has to be the price of our principles, and some lack of control.
Lack of certainty and control is a HUGE issue - including for those on the left. For years now we've been raging against the neocon's Pax Americana. But the hard truth is that being a partner rather than a dominator means giving up some control.
I've learned that same lesson on a tiny scale in my own community. The non-profit I work for has been dabbling in some community organizing around the issue of the over-representation of young black men in the criminal justice system. In those efforts, I am constantly reminded that it is the community that we are trying to organize. If we get out front of their goals and aspirations, we're not doing community organizing, we're just one more group telling this community what they need to do. It can be a tough line to walk.
As to the situation in Libya, the rebels asked us for assistance and we provided it. But this rebellion is theirs and not ours. To determine an end game and then pursue it takes it all away from them and makes it our effort. Leaving it to the rebels means we are partners, but not in control. And that means having to live with the uncertainty. That's why Christina Patterson was absolutely correct when she said this about Obama's announcement on the Libyan intervention.
Obama, like every other person on the face of this planet, doesn't know if bombing certain targets in Tripoli, and Benghazi, and Misrata, is going to get rid of Muammar Gaddafi, or if it's just going to strengthen his resolve. He doesn't know if the bombs will just destroy machinery, and kill soldiers, or if they're going to kill men and women who are used as human shields. He doesn't know if the so-called rebels, who said they didn't want international help, and then that they did, but might change their minds again, and who are mostly about as experienced in using AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades as I am, will be able to stand up against a trained army, and highly paid mercenaries, and massive supplies of arms that the West sold them, and now wishes it hadn't. He doesn't know if this is the kind of military action that can be done quite quickly and cleanly, or if, like most military action, and even military action that looks as though it can be done quickly and cleanly, it can't.
It is, presumably, because he doesn't know these things that he took a while to weigh them up.
Are progressives ready for the uncertainty of partnership?