The Spectacle Blog

Whither Libya?

By on 3.19.11 | 2:02PM

President Obama’s not the only one who believes that “words matter.” So, too, does Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi. That’s why he’s blithely ignored his own ceasefire and, in clear defiance of President Obama and the “international community” continued his assault on the rebel forces trapped in Benghazi.

Finally and belatedly, it seems, French jets are en route to Libya to begin enforcement of the United Nations resolution which authorizes “all necessary measures…to protect civilians and civilian populated areas, including Benghazi, while excluding an occupation force.”

I sincerely hope that French and British military action will be sufficient to stop Gaddafi and his mercenary army. I am, however, dubious.

Air power alone, after all cannot win wars. You need boots on the ground to root out the enemy and occupy terrain. Yet Obama has ruled out the use of American ground troops in Libya.

The U.N. resolution, meanwhile, explicitly excludes “an occupying force” and, in any case, does not explicitly call for Gaddafi’s removal from power.

This was a tactical blunder that, in the past 24 hours, has had decisive strategic consequences. Unfortunately for the Libyan people and the United States, the decisive strategic consequences have all been in Gaddafi’s favor. He seems to have concluded, and rightly so, that the United States and the United Nations are not committed to winning in Libya.

Instead, we are committed, it seems, to humanitarian half measures that will allow Gaddafi to stay in power, while, over time, he harasses and destroys the rebel forces.

Thus Gaddafi has ignored his own ceasefire, his forces have continued to advance toward Benghazi, and it is only a matter of time before he has snuffed out any and all opposition.

Will British and French air power be enough to save the Libyan rebels at this late hour? Will aerial bombardments cause Gaddafi to relinquish power? Military history suggests otherwise.

Still, if there were ever a place where air power alone could win a war, it might well be Libya, which is comprised mostly of flat desert terrain. The enemy, consequently, has nowhere to hide.

Gaddafi’s African mercenaries, moreover, are not exactly well-trained or elite troops. In fact, quite the opposite.

Nonetheless, Gaddafi seems to have concluded that in the absence of American and allied soldiers and marines, he could continue his advance toward Benghazi with impunity.

And that’s the problem. Obama’s threatening words mean very little to Gaddafi because he already knows with certainty that the Commander-in-Chief of the American Armed Forces absolutely will not send U.S. ground troops to Libya.

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