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March 31, 2011

NATO: Hey, We'll Bomb The Rebels, Too

National Review linked this with a "Who's on first?" quip. But I don't know.

Members of the NATO alliance have sternly warned the rebels in Libya not to attack civilians as they push against the regime of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, according to senior military and government officials.

As NATO takes over control of airstrikes in Libya and the Obama administration considers new steps to tip the balance of power there, the coalition has told the rebels that the fog of war will not shield them from possible bombardment by NATO planes and missiles, just as the regime’s forces have been punished.

“We’ve been conveying a message to the rebels that we will be compelled to defend civilians, whether pro-Qaddafi or pro-opposition,” said a senior Obama administration official.

It certainly sounds like a clusterfark, but...

If America wants to enter other states and declare a monopoly on sanctioned violence, well, that's a good way to keep outrages against civilians low, but comes at the cost of using American troops for every damn fight in the world.

If you're going to go a different way -- supporting indigenous fighters with air capabilities and intelligence -- you have to accept that there are going to be some vicious slaughters of civilians by "freedom fighters," but certainly you want as few such massacres as possible.

What do you do? You can threaten an end to air cover and supply. But that doesn't thwart a slaughter in progress.

I'm not sure a threat to attack the rebels we're supporting is necessarily a bad thing. We need them to keep it clean. The temptation in any war, especially a civil one, is to get dirty and vicious as soon as possible and then keep topping yourself. Our troops don't do that (except for the occasional psychopaths who are then court martialed), but we don't want to have to insert our troops into every situation where we might want to flex some military might.

If we're going to fight in this limited fashion (and I think the old Cold War model of limited support is well worth revisiting), we do need to let our "freedom fighters" know that there are some things we just won't/can't countenance, and there's no way we can stay in a fight if our "freedom fighters" decide to unleash their inner Al Qaeda.

As for actually bombing them, though: I really can't think of a more preposterous situation than bombing both sides in a civil war.

Oh, and meanwhile, SecDef Gates said there won't be any ground troops in Libya as long as he's serving in his job. So, like, implicitly, he's threatening to walk.

People point out that we already have had troops on the ground -- one of those shot-down pilots was almost certainly evacuated care of a SEAL team in a helicopter, and I'd imagine they touched boots on the ground during the operation.

I think he means apart from such things.

Although, of course, any time you have pilots in a war it means you're just one shoot-down away from a hostage situation.

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posted by Ace at 06:00 PM

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