As I understand it, the thrust of the White House plan for the Libyan intervention is to provide an initial intense “blast” of U.S. military power and then fade into the background while our allies take on the remaining effort. However, this presumes that the allies are capable of performing even the lesser mission, that they stay committed to the operation and that they agree amongst themselves and with the administration over the goals of intervention.
What is clear already is that the U.S. military played not just an important role in the operation to date, it was decisive. The U.S. provided the critical reconnaissance assets, strike systems, and electronic warfare capabilities. Our allies, while not lacking in courage, do not have the same capabilities. It is our satellites, radar planes and Global Hawk unmanned aircraft that provide the bulk of critical intelligence. It was our Tomahawk cruise missiles that made the initial strikes on Libyan air defenses, our B-2 bombers with smart bombs that destroyed Ghadaffi’s airfields and our electronic warfare aircraft that jammed Libyan radar. It is our fleet with its large deck amphibs launching Harrier jump jets and Aegis-capable air and missile defense ships that support the bulk of sea-based military activities. It is a coalition operation to be sure, but not one of equals.
If the fighting intensifies, if Ghadaffi refuses to submit to the will of the Security Council much less heed President Obama’s directive to go, the U.S. will not be able to take a back seat. Only our military has the reconnaissance, strike and electronic warfare to conduct an intense air-ground campaign. In the end this is a U.S. operation first and, unfortunately, last.
But will the coalition stay together if Ghadaffi does not retreat? If a ceasefire is achieved but Ghadaffi remains in power will this be a satisfactory outcome? If the country is split will the coalition commit to the protection of rebel-held territory in perpetuity?
If the decision is made to terminate Ghadaffi’s regime as the President apparently wants this will become another U.S. war. Ironically, we actually gave the military capability to conduct this campaign while also waging war in Afghanistan and deterring aggression around the world.
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