(NOTE: updated below, Obama answers the question posed in the post title with an unambiguous "yes!")
Sounds like an odd precept, but as with all liberals, the counter-commonsense explanation is usually the correct one.
Never waste a crisis, the Obama administration is fond of saying. Well, here was a crisis, all right: A hated dictator lashing out violently and with ill intent at his own population in an attempt to hold on to power. Obama dithered for days and days, loathing the idea of leading troops into battle (like most cowards), even if his role was more metaphorical than not. So what convinced him?
Massimo Calabresi at Time has some thoughts:
American policy is that Gaddafi should be removed from power. But Obama is interpreting U.N. resolution 1973, which authorized the intervention, to stop short of green-lighting Gaddafi's removal. He believes it only allows military action to protect civilians. Therefore, he explained yesterday, “when it comes to our military action, we are doing so in support of U.N. Security Resolution 1973. That specifically talks about humanitarian efforts. And we are going to make sure that we stick to that mandate.” So no targeting Gaddafi with smart bombs or ousting him with special forces.
The British apparently disagree with that interpretation, but for U.S. political purposes, what matters is that Obama is again acting to strengthen an idea: that international limits apply when one goes to war. Of course, that's not a very controversial idea either. The U.S. has long supported the Geneva conventions and the laws of war. But George W. Bush embraced interrogation techniques the U.S. had previously said were illegal, used of force outside a U.N. mandate and refused to comply with elements of the Geneva conventions, like providing access to the ICRC to prisoners.
Ignoring the lefty potshots at W., Calabresi makes an interesting case. Did Obama go to war to prove that under his leadership, we can exercise our military force while remaining within the strict guideline of "international law"? And by strictly limiting the mission to what was delineated by the United Nations, is he acting in a way to set a precedent for military action, where future presidents cannot act unless they get approval from an international body, and even then, must limit themselves to goals set out by foreign diplomats?
Is Barack Obama essentially ceding control of our military to the United Nations? It's long been a dream of the hard-left, under the assumption that our forces will then only fight for "social justice", and for the Palestinians. Was he convinced to enter the Libyan fray as a way to change the template forever, to hamstring American military might, and to leave our national security to the "Secretary Generals" of the UN, whose great bureaucratic wisdom certainly would trump the judgement of a future cowboy president?
Why not? Obama has given no other compelling reason to go to war, and what reasons he does offer keeps changing. It reminds me of nothing more than the passing of Obamacare, when his rationale kept shifting week to week - as each lie was exposed, another position was staked out. Turns out all the dancing was due to the president not wanting to tell Americans the truth about his ultimate goal - the takeover and nationalization of our health care system.
Seems like his M.O. is exactly the same in Libya. Talk about brutality, talk about allies, talk about "protection",but don't talk about subordinating our strength to the perfidious thugs and punks that roam the halls of Turtle Bay...
UPDATE: Via the PJ Tatler, Obama has admitted to the above:
And that’s why building this international coalition has been so important because it means that the United States is not bearing all the cost. It means that we have confidence that we are not going in alone, and it is our military that is being volunteered by others to carry out missions that are important not only to us, but are important internationally. And we will accomplish that in a relatively short period of time.
We are being volunteered by Barack Obama to serve for the whim of the United Nations. Isn't that special....