Mission creep or lack of a mission?
You can this coming from a mile off:
As rebel forces backed by allied warplanes pushed toward one of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s most crucial bastions of support, the American military warned on Monday that the insurgents’ rapid advances could quickly be reversed without continued coalition air support.
“The regime still vastly overmatches opposition forces militarily,” Gen. Carter F. Ham, the ranking American in the coalition operation, warned in an email message on Monday. “The regime possesses the capability to roll them back very quickly. Coalition air power is the major reason that has not happened.”
Uh, okay, I accept the fact that without the coalition attacking Gadhafi ground units, the “rebels” wouldn’t be able to “advance” or enjoy any gains whatsoever.
But wasn’t the ostensible reason for establishing the no-fly zone and the reason for the UN mission to protect civilians from being killed by their government? Hasn’t that been accomplished?
So why do we care if “rebel advances” might be “quickly…reversed”?
Unless, of course, the real purpose of the mission, under the flag of “protecting civilians” is to run Gadhafi out of power? And, one then assumes, install a different government (the “rebels” one supposes, of whom we know very little except they come from an area that was one of the major provider of jihadists to Iraq and Afghanistan and one of their leaders admits to having served there in that capacity).
Then and only then does a concern for the state of the “rebel” advance make any sense or have any meaning at all.
General Ham’s warning, however, offered a somber counterpoint and underscored the essential role of Western airstrikes, now focused mainly on Colonel Qaddafi’s ground troops, in reversing the rebels’ fortunes. It also framed anew the question of how the poorly equipped and disorganized rebel forces might fare against Colonel Qaddafi’s garrison in Surt, where air cover may be less useful.
Wait, wait … again, if the mission is the protection of civilians who cares how the “poorly equipped and disorganized rebel forces” might fare anywhere?
That only matters if there’s a mission in addition to the stated one, i.e. protecting civilians.
Oh, and what happens if the “rebels”, in their push into territory mostly deemed to be that of Gadhafi supporters, begin killing civilians? Do we hit the “rebels” then? Or are civilians only a concern when Gadhafi’s military kills them?
Some will argue that the UN resolution authorized “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya. I assume the follow on argument is that the best way to “protect civilians” is to take sides and topple Gadhafi?
That’s certainly not how this war was described in the beginning – you know a “limited time, limited scope military action”? We were assured that it wouldn’t take long and it would only seek to keep the Libyan government from killing civilians.
Now we seem to be hinting around about the need for our airpower to support the cause of a rebellion that has the possibility – because they are so poorly equipped, untrained and disorganized – of lasting for months, if not years.
As you can tell, there are far more questions than apparent answers. I’m looking forward to Obama’s speech tonight. It should be an interesting affair. He’s got to communicate why he went to war, why UN sanctioning was sufficient for committing us to war, why he didn’t consult or seek Congressional approval, what the mission in Libya is and what the end state of that mission should be as well as an exit strategy.
Anyone want to bet how many of those questions will still remain unanswered after the speech?