Libya’s monthlong revolt became an international conflict on Saturday as U.S. and British warships fired 110 Tomahawk missiles at 20 military targets in the country, in the first foreign military action ostensibly designed to stop Muammar Gaddafi’s army from inflicting more damage on rebel strongholds and Libyan civilians. But the likely consequence of such an action was also emerging, that it would be the beginning of a campaign to drive Gaddafi out of rebel-held eastern Libya and ultimately to force him from office after nearly 42 years in power. It also has the capacity to become a messy, prolonged war, further complicating the atmosphere around the revolutions in the Middle East.
As U.S., European and Arab officials met in Paris to coordinate military strategy, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters that Gaddafi had “totally ignored the warning” to halt his war against the rebels. “In Libya a peaceful civilian population demanding nothing more than the right to choose its own destiny is in mortal danger,” said Sarkozy mid-afternoon, just as French jets took to the skies, destroying four of Gaddafi’s military vehicles in the opening salvo by the new coalition. “It is our duty to respond to their anguished appeal.” Barely an hour after Sarkozy spoke, French planes reportedly opened fire on four Libyan tanks.