Angela Merkel has agreed in principle on the possibility of sending German troops as part of an EU force to Libya to provide humanitarian aid and protection. Our assorted commentators are enjoying this flip-floppery. See Jean Quatremer:
In short, if one understands correctly, to stop Qaddafi from massacring the population of Benghazi after he had promised “rivers of bloods” by flying at 15,000 meters of altitude with NATO AWACs is off limits, on the other hand to intervene after all hell has broken loose, at the risk of of fighting Qaddafi’s army, that’s acceptable… Go figure.
Testing the waters of interventionism? Consequence of the CDU’s recent loss in state elections to the Greens? Grudging concession to her hawkish allies? Normal erratica of the foreign policy of countries where it isn’t obvious what course of action is in the “national interest”? All these things, probably.
One has to stress this is only a possibility but it also highlights the tenuous distinction the Germans in particular must make between “war” (unacceptable outside the borders of the Federal Republic, only in self-defense, unconstitutional, etc.) and “humanitarian intervention” (legal, wholesome, browny points with the UN-EU-international-peace-loving-community crowd). Any boots on the ground EU mission in Libya would inevitably have to protect the rebels from Qaddafi’s forces and, most likely, train and arm them.
See also: European Voice on the “confusion” of possible EU action in Libya, a detailed Charlemagne post, and Jean-Dominique Merchet’s skepticism, requoting in particular someone calling the rebels “armed protesters” (!).