It looks like the Libyan rebels, with the help of NATO planes and American bombs, have overthrown the Gaddafi regime. All that remains is to find the guy. No Americans were killed, the Libyans themselves did the heavy lifting to free themselves, and the terrorist-supporting dictator who has been the West’s nemesis for decades is out of power. Does this vindicate President Obama’s stated policy of “leading from behind”? You would think conservatives would celebrate an American victory. And that liberals would celebrate one of the administration’s success stories. But we aren’t hearing much from anyone. Not even the British and the French, who were the ones who went into combat. Is everyone afraid of another “mission accomplished” moment, after which everything turns very bad? Is it that Republicans don’t want to give the President any credit, while the Democrats, being peaceniks at heart, are ashamed of President Obama’s war? Or is everyone so sick of all of these post-9/11 wars that the martial spirit has died out?
We started our third war. The United Nations called for a no-fly zone in Libya, to try to stop dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s military strikes against Libyans protesting his rule. This time NATO allies are playing a big role, with the French launching airstrikes against Gaddafi’s tanks. (How do aircraft attacking ground targets, other than air defense sites, relate to the mandate of establishing a no-fly zone?) But the U.S. is in it too, launching 112 Tomahawk missiles against Libya, as well as co-ordinating coalition efforts from American bases. See International coalition launches strikes on Libya – The Washington Post.
But here is the problem: It may be too late. Gaddafi may have already crushed the revolt. His forces had already entered Benghazi, the city of a million people that was the center of the uprising. What good would a no-fly zone, or even airstrikes do, to stop the urban warfare that is now taking place in that city?
President Obama has ruled out sending ground troops. (Was that wise to let Gaddaffi know that?) It looks like the Europeans are going to do the heavy lifting–in addition to the French, the Danes, the Spanish, and others have sent in their American-made F-18s and are preparing them for action–while we launch our missiles from afar to prevent any American casualties. (Is this Obama style of warfare, in which we no longer lead but follow and let other countries do the fighting for us, worthy of our country? Or is it about time other countries police the world and we start holding back for once?)
But what will the coalition do if the rebellion is put down and Gaddafi is still in power? Try to overthrow him, as the Americans did with his nearest counterpart, the late Saddam Hussein? Which would surely require sending in ground troops after all? Or just give Gaddafi his victory?