While supporters of the president are working hard to bill the intervention in Libya as just that, intervention, Marc Ambinder over at National Journal isn’t afraid to call it like he sees it: this is “Barack Obama’s first new war.”

As a fleet of French airplanes lacerated a column of Libyan army vehicles near Benghazi on Saturday, President Obama stuck to his prearranged schedule in Brazil, receiving whispered updates from his aides. Within three hours, more than 100 cruise missiles had hit two dozen targets in Libya. That’s just “the first phase,” William Gortney, the director of the Joint Staff, told reporters.

What he didn’t say: It’s the first phase of what will become Barack Obama’s first new war. By directing the military to hit targets inside Libya, the Obama administration is trying to strike an incredibly delicate balance between a strong disinclination to invade a Muslim country and their determined desire to avoid looking like they’re walking away from the indiscriminate slaughter of innocents.

Ambinder also summarizes Hillary Clinton’s reasons for intervention:

A destabilizing force would jeopardize progress in Tunisia and Egypt; a humanitarian disaster was imminent unless prevented; Qaddafi could not flout international law without consequences. The fourth: there’s a line now, and one that others countries had better not cross.

“The development of a new doctrine in the Middle East is taking form, and it could become a paradigm for how the international community deals with unrest across the region from now on,” he concludes.

You can read the rest of his thoughts here, which includes a fascinating account of the run-up to the decision to use force, including talk of the secret, Tuesday meeting mentioned in the previous post.

There are also those making the case that this is simply “humanitarian intervention.” More on that argument soon. But in the meantime, you can read one such essay from Daniel Serwer over at The Atlantic.