October 20, 2011

Mu'amar al-Qadhafi dead in Libya - what took so long?

Screen capture from the Al-Jazeera web site announcing
the killing of al-Qadhafi and the end of his regime

October 20, 2011 - According to Libyan officials former "Brother Leader" Mu'amar al-Qadhafi has been killed and photos of his bloody corpse broadcast on various news media around the world. This, of course, is welcome news. Not only does it end a 42-year reign of terror in Libya, it presents an opportunity for the Libyan people to at long last determine their own future.

This culminates a revolution that began on February 15 of this year - eight months of fierce fighting between al-Qadhafi loyalists hoping to hold onto power and a variety of armed groups seeking the end of the regime that has been in power since September of 1969. These rebel groups have been supported by NATO air power since March 19. The five-week delay by NATO, which includes the United States, to take action almost doomed the rebellion from the start and cost many more Libyan lives than was necessary.

Later today, no doubt President Obama will make another speech in which he will claim victory and vindication for his policy on Libya, specifically his ludicrous "leading from behind" military strategy. The delays in taking actions in February and the limited American involvement, leaving the bulk of the air operation to our NATO allies, prolonged what should have been a very short, weeks-long engagement rather than an eight-month bloodbath that has not only killed thousands of Libyans but decimated the infrastructure of the country.

We should be happy that the regime of Mu'amar al-Qadhafi is gone, and we should salute our forces and those of our NATO allies who played a critical role in that process. We should also, however, demand an analysis of how many lives could have been saved had we exercised better political leadership and employed much more capable American air power with more appropriate weapons systems for this type of fighting. This particular episode of timid operations execution turned out well albeit delayed; next time we may not be so fortunate.

This entire affair should have been over in weeks with much less loss of life. Remember that when Caesar comes forth for his accolades.