The president also seems to have deliberately bypassed his foreign minister Alain Juppé and followed the advice of celebrity philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who had been in secret contact with Mr Sarkozy while on a visit to the rebels.
He describes the moment Mr Sarkozy decided to go it alone and recognise the Libyan rebel movement. “Bernard-Henri rang him from Benghazi to tell him that French flags were everywhere. He told him if he allowed a bloodbath there the blood would stain the French flag. That really affected him.”
Levy's role in the conflict, and his decision to appeal to Sarkozy's nationalism in addition to -- or, depending on your interpretation, instead of -- his humanitarianism is noteworthy. Many critics of the Iraq War describe that venture as a decision imposed upon George W. Bush by intellectuals. I find that interpretation mostly but not entirely false. But it seems to be far more true of the Libya intervention. It really is a decision that owes a great deal to a single intellectual, operating as an activist more than an intellectual per se.
Meanwhile, Tom Malinowski has an interesting argument as to why President Obama has not received more credit.