The current U.S. air campaign in Libya is being described as a low-cost operation. It isn’t. The federal government has spent many trillions of dollars building and sustaining a global military posture capable of dealing expeditiously with the likes of Col. Gadhafi. Our allies have not made similar investments, which is why they probably wouldn’t have even tried to implement the no-fly zone without help from America — even though Libya is located right on Europe’s doorstep. For all their rhetoric about shared burdens and values, the European members of NATO have nothing like the B-2 long-range bomber or the Global Hawk reconnaissance drone or EA-18G Growler jamming aircraft or the V-22 tilt-rotor. Those systems have made a huge difference in the Libyan operation, and without American participation they would have all been absent. But it is not clear Washington will be able to continue fielding such a capable force at a time when it is borrowing $4 billion per day and the U.S. share of global economic output is steadily declining. I have written an essay on that topic for forbes.com that can be found here.
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