I wasn’t going to bother responding to this, but since it has come up again I will say a few things about it. Yes, I repeatedly referred to a stalemate in Libya. That is what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs called it on July 25, and it was only very recently that this description became inaccurate. Libyan war supporters never liked the word stalemate, perhaps because it weakened public support for the war, but for much of the spring and summer it was the appropriate word to use. Admiral Mullen said, “We are generally in a stalemate.”
When I wrote, “We are no closer to finding a means by which Gaddafi would be forced to ‘go’ than we were four months ago,” that was informed by reports earlier in the month that the rebel military leadership had no expectation of a rapid rebel advance on Tripoli. C.J. Chivers wrote in one of his reports that “expectations of a swift rebel advance out of the mountains toward Tripoli are unrealistic, barring a collapse from within of the Qaddafi forces blocking the way. The rebel military leadership has admitted this much, too. A force equipped as they are, they say, cannot expect to undertake an arduous open-desert march against a dug-in, conventional foe with armor, artillery, rockets, and more.” What changed? Gaddafi’s forces collapsed, and they collapsed so quickly that the speed of it reportedly startled NATO officials. At the time that I wrote that line, it was a fair description of the situation, and it seemed a reasonable response to vague demands to “finish the job” that included no explanation for how that was to be done. It doesn’t matter very much, but it wasn’t a prediction.
One of the reasons that I wrote the line that Beauchamp cited was that the U.S. and NATO had no clear idea how to achieve their desired end. Robert Farley addressed this quite well yesterday:
It was also apparent that the decision-makers in Washington, Paris, and London didn’t have the faintest what to do in case of a failure of Gaddafi to collapse. ”Pound away until the bombs run out, the aircraft carriers have to go home, and the allies get bored” isn’t a strategy.
That is related to what I said in the July 27 post:
Obviously, driving out Gaddafi has always been the real goal, but there has been no plan for how this would happen except to keep bombing and hope for luck.