U.S. officials came away from recent meetings in Tunisia with Gaddafi representatives repeating demands that the colonel "must go" as a part of any resolution to the conflict. Yet even then it was becoming evident that what "go" ultimately entails may not meet the definition rebels have long advanced: of Gaddafi being forcefully driven from power, arrested, and handed over to the U.N. tribunal wanting to try him for crimes against humanity. On July 20, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé told French TV channel LCI that "one of the hypotheses that's envisioned is, indeed, that (Gaddafi) stays in Libya on the condition he very clearly leaves Libyan political life". That considerably watered down position on the criteria to end the conflict was then repeated on July 25 by British Foreign Secretary William Hague. While remaining adamant that "Gaddafi must leave power", Hague left the Libyan leader's fate beyond that open to question.
"Obviously him leaving Libya itself would be the best way of showing the Libyan people that they no longer have to live in fear of Gaddafi," Hague said Monday, prior to his meeting with Juppé in London. "But as I have said all along, this is ultimately a question for Libyans to determine."
True—sort of—though that shifted position rather glosses over a couple very significant considerations undermining hopes that the initial goal of driving Gaddafi into exile—or prison—will ever be achieved. First off, the mere fact Western allies—and especially the UK and France, who were the most gung-ho advocates for launching the air intervention—have now clearly loosened their conditions for bringing the war to an end is the direct consequence of Gaddafi and his army having withstood the combined power of NATO strikes and rebel offensives far better and longer than expected. As a result, figuring out a conflict-ending, face-saving scenario with Gaddafi still factored in has become obligatory for American and European leaders aching to find a ways of getting the costly campaign over with.
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