The U.S. military dramatically stepped up its assault on Libyan government ground forces this weekend, launching its first attacks with AC-130 flying gunships and A-10 attack aircraft, which are designed to strike enemy ground troops and supply convoys, according to senior U.S. military officials.
Their use, during several days of heavy fighting in which the momentum seemed to swing in favor of the rebels, demonstrated how allied military forces have been drawn deeper into the chaotic fight in Libya. A mission that initially seemed to revolve around establishing a no-fly zone has become focused on halting advances by ground forces in and around Libya’s key coastal cities. ~The Washington Post
It’s worth noting that this is not only the opposite of what senior administration officials and the President have been leading the public to expect, but it also goes against the very sensible recommendations that CNAS’s Exum and Hosford offer here. They recommend that the U.S. halt direct military operations as part of an effort to pressure Gaddafi to accept exile if possible, but to render humanitarian assistance to the population, and to be willing to accept an outcome that leaves Gaddafi in place if necessary. One might quibble here or there, but their recommendations seem very reasonable, achievable, and designed to reduce U.S. involvement as much and as quickly as possible.
One of the more refreshing parts of the analysis Exum and Hosford present is their critique of the nonsensical idea that Obama took too long to decide on intervention in Libya. Exum stated this well in aseparate post earlier today:
When the administration went to war in Libya, it did so without talking through the crisis of Libya, its possible responses to the crisis, and the consequences for action or inaction. As a result, nine days into the intervention, we are at war without a clear policy, clearly defined goals, or stated assumptions. Instead, we are at war with a laundry list of activities — things we are doing, but things untethered to a broader framework.
Although some of the administration’s most vociferous detractors have claimed the president “dithered” on Libya, the reality is that the administration deliberated and then acted on Libya in too hasty and too closed a manner. The debate on whether or not we should intervene in Libya was a debate carried out in the highest echelons of the administration but without much outside consultation or opportunity for others to question the validity of the administration’s assumptions. And though humanitarian/liberal interventionists and neo-conservatives were, perhaps correctly, warning of dire consequences of immediate inaction, the administration did not go to war following a careful discussion of interests, strategic goals and assumptions about the environment and our capabilities.