What can one say about a nation, a superpower, that starts a war ostensibly in order to save innocent lives and then walks away from the conflict taking its unique military capabilities with it and thereby ensuring that it is prolonged and those same civilians suffer? This goes way beyond the bystander watching an old lady getting mugged on the street but not intervening. That is irresponsible. This is more like seeing a person standing on the ledge of a tall building and urging him to jump. It is making a bad situation worse. I call it immoral.
What the United States is doing in Libya is immoral. It did not start the revolt against Ghadaffi, this is true. But Washington was instrumental in obtaining U.N. resolution 1973 imposing a no-fly zone. While France was the most vocal proponent of using force against the Libyan regime, the U.S. was not far behind. In fact, President Obama’s declaration that Ghadaffi had to go, repeated even recently by administration officials, went beyond what Paris or London said.
Then there is the reality that only the U.S. possesses the military means to make air power a decisive instrument that could end the current conflict. The U.S. made the no-fly zone feasible with its U-2 and Global Hawk-based ISR, Tomahawk cruise missile strikes on Libyan air defenses and B-2 attacks using GPS-guided JDAMs against Libyan airfields. Precision ground strikes by U.S. F-15E, F-16CJ, A-10 and Harrier jet fighters and AC-130 gunships drove Ghadaffi’s forces back to the gates of Tripoli. There were some reversals, but the rebels had the clear advantage.
Then the U.S. withdrew from the conflict and things began to fall apart. Now the rebels are barely able to hang on to their own territory. There are complaints from rebel sources that they are not getting the kind of air support they once enjoyed. This is not surprising since only a small portion of the coalition air fleet is capable of air-to-ground operations. French and British sources are complaining that some of the other coalition members are not pulling their weight. More importantly, the allies have discovered the obvious: they cannot do the job without us. As one prominent French defense expert was quoted in theWashington Post “The Americans have the numbers of planes, and the Americans have the right equipment.” The allies do not have the range of precision weapons nor do they have the experienced tactical air control parties with laser/GPS designators that can call in precision strikes on Ghadaffi’s tanks while saving rebel ones from harm.
How long will this stalemate be allowed to continue? How long until the number of casualties caused by the desultory back and forth fighting equal that which the war was started to prevent? How long will NATO pretend that it can do the job without the United States? How long will the Obama Administration effuse to do what is necessary to end the conflict it did so much to engender? Knowing that we have the means to bring this war to a successful conclusion and save lives in the process, how long will we remain the immoral superpower?
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