The president has sent in the drones to enforce the Libyan no-fly zones:
The U.S. said it is starting to use armed drones to carry out missile strikes against Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s troops in Libya, despite the Obama administration’s vow to leave such offensive missions to its allies.
Defense officials said the airstrikes—which will target Libyan troops hiding near civilians in urban areas—were necessary to respond to a shift in tactics by the Libyan military. Allied aircraft have proved unable to fully protect civilians and rebel forces under heavy attack from Gadhafi loyalists. The drones can get closer, allowing more-precise strikes, and loiter longer, giving them a better chance of finding hidden targets.
“The president has said where we have unique capabilities, he is willing to use those,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday, as he announced the drone strikes.
The U.S. is putting two Predator drones, each equipped with two Hellfire missiles, in Libyan airspace around the clock. The first Predator attack sorties were launched Thursday, though after the aircraft took off, weather conditions prevented any strikes.
Gadhaffi was using indiscriminate air strikes against rebellious cities, so the UN imposed a no-fly zone to protect non-combatant civilians. No-fly zones require battlefield preparation in the form of the suppression of enemy air defenses. From there we went to kinetic strikes against armored columns, and no it appears we will enforce the no-fly zones with unmanned systems which carry exclusively air-to-ground weapons. Oh yeah, and boots on deck for our coalition partners.
Once you get head wrapped around the notion that we’re no longer doing the no-fly zone thing, but actively taking sides in an internal revolt, this makes a lot of sense. UASs provide persistent, focused intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and – having been armed – the ability to reach out and touch someone with minimal collateral damage effects. They also have the added “advantage” of letting general officers direct tactical actions from air-conditioned trailers in Las Vegas. Baby.
But we will no more end the violence with two Predators than we will find Osama bin Laden with fleets of them. It’s a game of whack-a-mole, and while it may be antiseptically satisfying to those who feel that “we just have to do some thing” and “what we’re doing doesn’t appear to be working, let’s try something else”, this just kicks the can of ineffectiveness further down the road.
Leaving me to wonder, what next? The choices seem to be accept a violent status quo, withdraw in humiliation or continue to escalate.