For the latest developments in the fighting in Libya, see
Lin Noueihed (Reuters), “Fighting rages in Libya’s Western Mountains,” Reuters.com, May 2, 2011.
ABC News (Australia), “Gaddafi’s tanks hit rebel city as son is buried,” May 3, 2011.
Borzou Daragahi, “Inside a city running on fear:
Six weeks in the Libyan capital, in a hotel under lock and key, give a journalist a taste of the daily oppression and suffering Kadafi’s regime inflicts on citizens,”Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2011..
If Misurata falls…
One could make the argument that however regrettable the loss of innocent human life as the result of the bombing of Qaddafi’s son’s compound, which NATO reports was being used as a command and control center–and the deaths of three small children are indeed regrettable–one should not lose sight of the fact that Qaddafi’s forces are killing many more than three small, innocent children every day. Under his orders.
One could make the argument that the ongoing commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in e.g., Misurata, where the civilian population has been subjected to tank and artillery attacks– and is probably under attack at this very moment–should be brought to a halt.
By the use of “all necessary measures”.
One could argue that amphibious and ground troops should be introduced immediately in Misurata in order to secure a humanitarian supply route through the port and the airport.
One could argue that the United States should re-engage in Libya with “the two most accurate close air support weapons systems, the A-10 and the AC-130“, to help defend the civilian population of towns currently under assault by Qadaffi’s military forces.
But why bother? Why should the Libya contact group meeting in Rome on Thursday do anything other than manage their political exposure, attend to inter-alliance arguments over what is and what is not appropriate action in Libya, when up to now they have been perfectly happy to proceed in disarray, with no vision of victory, and no sense that it even matters to prevail in Libya.
Punch the clock. Show that you are doing something. Explain to the world that you can’t complete the anti-mining operation to clear the port of Misurata because Qaddafi’s forces use small mines that are difficult to find.
Who is there to make the argument that in war speed, tactical advantage and momentum are qualities that can make a decisive difference if properly seized upon?
Who could make the argument that while the Russians and the Chinese are unhappy with the way the NATO campaign is going, their displeasure might be mitigated if it were brought to a rapid and successful conclusion?
The failure of incremental decision making by a broad political coaltion is there for all to see. What was and remains necessary has been for the politicians and diplomats to turn the conduct of NATO military operations over to a single commander who is tasked with simply finishing the job.
The longer the fighting in Libya drags out, the more difficult it will become for coalition partners to maintain essential domestic support.
Perhaps it is time for NATO and other coalition members to focus intently on Plan B, prolonged and inconclusive military operations from the air, with a substantial likelihood of failure, leaving Qaddafi entrenched in power. This outcome could even be the result of a negotiated solution.
Would it be possible under Plan B, assuming you don’t care about the thousands who will be hunted down and executed by Qaddafi, to somehow put Qaddafi “back in his box”? To prevent him from supporting or engaging directly in international terrorism?
Of course, coalition partners and the contact group might find “success” through knocking out Qaddafi when he is somewhere giving commands, and therefore operating as a command and control center. That would be legitimate.
In the meantime, what about the people in Misurata and the other towns and cities in Libya that are under assault?
What should be done to protect those civilians?
The Trenchant Observer