Former Ambassador John Bolton speaks out on the new trouble in the Middle East.

After nearly a month of signaling disinterest in or outright opposition to imposing a no-fly zone against Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, President Barrack Obama did a 180-degree reversal last week. By endorsing a no-fly zone, and an even broader mandate to protect innocent civilians, America and several allies have begun a military intervention into Libya’s civil war.

We should fervently hope that our ongoing display of raw military force is enough to break Qaddafi’s will, or at least the will of those still loyal to him. After all, the 2003 overthrow and subsequent capture of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was enough to convince Qaddafi to renounce his nuclear weapons program, and similar shock and awe could work again.

But even if it does, we cannot overlook the grave policy mistakes that preceded our ultimate success. Prompt, conclusive victory in Libya will be attributable to the force of our arms, not our political strategy and accompanying diplomacy, which stumbled from one mistake to another before Obama’s eleventh-hour turnaround. To avoid repeating these mistakes with a potentially far worse outcome in another crisis, consider the following things not to repeat.