Critics and supporters of U.S. actions regarding Libya agree on one thing: the Obama Administration’s rhetoric does not match its actions. There is a general concern that the current approach will be sufficient only to get the U.S. bogged down in a protracted civil war. To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt’s famous line, we are speaking loudly and carrying a small stick.
The President and his closest advisors have said that the U.S. objective is to have Gadhafi out of power, voluntarily if possible. Yet, the administration has repeatedly said that regime change is not its goal. The White House has said that it acted to protect innocent civilians but agreed to a UN resolution that is limited to imposing a no-fly zone. Washington portrays the operation as a coalition effort, yet ninety percent of the cruise missiles fired were U.S. as were the majority of bombs dropped and fighter sorties flown. Attacks by Gadhafi forces on civilians are decried but the U.S. steadfastly refuses to consider deploying boots on the ground.
No one believes the administration’s promise to turn the operation over to our allies. Simply put, they do not have the capability to do much more than enforce a no fly zone enabled by U.S. strikes that destroyed Libyan air defenses. We will still provide all the electronic warfare aircraft, the high altitude UAVs, the strategic bombers, combat search and rescue and space based surveillance. If ground strikes are required, U.S. aircraft such as the F-15 Strike Eagles will have to be involved. Only the U.S. can rapidly deploy ground forces, a Marine Corps Expeditionary Unit operating from an Amphibious Ready Group offshore.
Neither proponents nor opponents of the current policy need be concerned. The current lack of coherence in U.S. policy will not last. The U.S. is now committed to action in Libya. Neither the administration nor its coalition allies can tolerate a stalemate. Therefore, slowly and reluctantly it will have to expand the scope of its actions to ensure the defeat of Libyan government forces and Gadhafi’s ouster. As Winston Churchill is said to have remarked: “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing eventually — after they have tried everything else.”
Having exhausted all half measures, the coalition will have to seek the defeat of Gadhafi forces and the dictator’s removal. The solution is likely to be simple, easy to implement and relatively cheap. It consists of a small number of Special Forces (SOF) teams with tactical air control parties (TACPs). A few hundred SOF with TACPs to call in precision air strikes using JDAMs and laser-guided bombs defeated the Taliban in a matter of weeks. The deployment of a similar force to Libya would allow coalition air forces — primarily U.S. but from a few other countries as well — to eliminate Gadhafi’s armor and artillery in at most a few weeks.
If additional U.S. forces are required there is the Marine unit offshore as well as both a Stryker Brigade Combat Team (BCT) and airborne BCT in Europe. These units, perhaps in combination with French and British paratroopers and marines, capitalizing on total control of the air, would make short work of any hostile forces. End of story.
It is hard to be patient when people are dying at the hands of a brutal dictator. But we should not worry too much. As the old song goes “The Yanks are Coming.”
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