Libya: The Knowns and Unknowns
The Libyan mission has been a victory for the nation state and an energetic leader. That's how it comes across in Paris.
At the summit at the Elysee at the weekend, President Sarkozy beamed and embraced over a dozen heads of government and world leaders. The Palace Guard was in line and the drums rolled for the heads of state. Even opponents of the French president say that he has seized the initiative, forged alliances, and was able to inform his lunch guests that French planes were over Libya.
Political enemies like Dominique de Villepin said "France has, in these circumstances, been true to its ideals".
Mr Sarkozy said France had "decided to assume its role" - implying there was a French moral mission that formed part of its identity.
The start of a military operation often makes for good politics. Callers have been phoning French news stations to say they are proud to be French. The departure of the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle from Toulon was "breaking news".
The indispensable Americans: It was the French and the British who had made the diplomatic breakthrough. On the opening night the French were given the lead role, but the heavy punch was delivered by the Americans - they fired the vast majority of the Tomahawk cruise missiles that crippled the Libyan air defence system. They had help from the British, but the American Growlers and B2 Stealth bombers were essential.
The operation, so far, has been under the command of the Americans. It was controlled by the US Africa Command out of Germany. That will change. The Americans are determined not to have the "pre-eminent role". Within days command will be handed over to a joint UK-French team or Nato.
Washington - with an eye to the future - is keen to have the Europeans shoulder as much of the burden as possible. At a moment of international crisis the world now knows that Washington may not, as in the past, assume leadership.
The Arab League: Essential to the whole operation. Only underlined at the weekend when they wobbled after the first salvos.
The role of the Germans: In Europe it is often said that everything rides on the Franco-German alliance. It is the bedrock of the EU. On Libya the two countries came down sharply on different sides of the argument. The German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, found himself insisting that Berlin was not "internationally isolated". But he only underlined the divisions in the EU when he said "many other countries in the EU not only understand our position, not only respect it, but also share it". Germany, the economic superpower of Europe, finds itself debating once again whether it needs to be bolder in international affairs.
Other institutions: The EU has come across as divided, incapable of acting and so has been left on the periphery. This was not a Nato operation, but it may yet come to play a role.
Already there is confusion over aims. In recent days both US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others have said they seek the removal of Gaddafi. David Cameron said there was "no future that includes Gaddafi". Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs, took a different line: "this is not about going after Gaddafi himself". That message was reinforced by other American military officials.
But that begs the question. Would the international community be satisfied with the Libyan leader remaining in place as long as civilians were not being attacked?
And if the answer to that is "yes" then would the so-called "coalition of the willing" accept a country that is de-facto partitioned? The Libyan opposition is deeply opposed to this.
Would France, the UK, and the US settle for a stalemate?
What happens when the obvious targets run out? Already one UK Tornado mission has been aborted because of the threat to civilians. Gaddafi's forces are not going to risk being caught again on the open desert highways. They will hunker down in the cities they control.
Admiral Mullen summed it up when he said that the "end game" was very uncertain.
How long will the coalition hold together? There was consternation in various foreign ministries when Arab League head Amr Moussa said: "what has happened in Libya differs from the goal of imposing a no-fly zone". He had, apparently, been misquoted.
But the lesson of history is that civilian casualties are inevitable even with "smart" weapons.
Experience suggests that over time alliances fracture. Short missions work more effectively. So time may be more on Gaddafi's side than the coalition's.
An official said this to me at the weekend. Our big hope is that the air raids will encourage units and officials to desert Gaddafi's side. When they see they cannot win the regime will weaken from the inside and that might open the way for a deal with the opposition. Yesterday there were signs of the insurgents regrouping, but can they regain the initiative?
Just a few of the unknowns.