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Some of those involved in the Libyan no-fly-zone have become overexcited; their remarks imply that the mission is to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi. They should recover their grasp of the limited scope and purpose of the mission, which does not include regime change - greatly welcome as that event would be. Instead, the no-fly zone is for the protection of Libyan civilians.

Stephen Harper, unfortunately, is among those who appear to be getting carried away. He asserted in Paris on the weekend that it is a moral obligation to assist the Libyan people in their desire for freedom, and that Colonel Gadhafi will not be content with reimposing his authority but will massacre "every single individual" remotely suspected of disloyalty - words that lend themselves to a very wide interpretation of the protection of the civilians.

Similarly, Liam Fox, the British Defence Secretary, has declared Col. Gadhafi to be a legitimate target for fighter pilots. And a British plane has attacked a compound in Tripoli with the intention of targeting the Libyan dictator's military command authority. That is a stretch; the no-fly zone does require the disabling of the Gadhafiite air force, which properly includes attacks on military airplanes and airfields, but surely not the destruction of the very capacity to issue orders?

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Strident rhetoric aside, the coalition's actions have otherwise been compatible with its limited objectives. Col. Gadhafi has indeed threatened the people of Benghazi and other rebellious communities with indiscriminate killing; consequently, it was right to bomb his forces advancing on Benghazi. On the other hand, the rebels have failed to push back Col. Gadhafi's troops to the west along the seacoast.

The upshot may well be a stalemate on the ground - a civil war that could last a long time, at least if the rebel forces manage to learn more about using weapons. No one seems to want partition, but a war of attrition along a fuzzy boundary may ensue. That invites a temptation to mission creep.

In spite of a proven record of terrorism in past decades, the Libya government has not been a threat to other countries in recent years; a full-scale intervention by the international community is not called for.

Now that the first wave of attacks against Col. Gadhafi's air power is well under way, the no-fly-zone coalition needs to focus on its continuing limited mission, and should refrain from fantasies of tyrannicide and wars of liberation.

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