Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cordesman: Destroy Tripoli to Save It

CSIS think-tank generalissimo Tony Cordesman reiterates his earlier prescription for Libya: no more screwing around, it's time to crush Qaddafi! (Wasn't it the comic-book hero Thor of decades past who used to jump into action by hollering, "It's hammerin' time"?)  To his credit, Cordesman properly pole-axes Obama/Clinton, Sarko, et al. for not thinking through the failed crap-shoot that their Libya intervention has turned out to be.  (Would be that he had similarly skewered John McCain and his amen chorus, who berated Obama for not being first to roll the dice.)  And Cordesman also points out that the longer the current stalemate goes on, the more misery and death for the people of Libya.

But then, he reiterates the brutal prescription he issued 2 weeks ago:
France, Britain, the US and other participating members of the Coalition need to shift to the kind of bombing campaign that targets and hunts down Qaddafi's military and security forces in their bases and as they move - as long before they engage rebel forces as possible. Qaddafi, his extended family, and his key supporters need to be targeted for their attacks on Libyan civilians, even if they are collocated in civilian areas. They need to be confronted with the choice between exile or death, and bombing needs to be intense enough so it is clear to them that they must make a choice as soon as possible.

This kind of operation cannot be "surgical' - if "surgical" now means minimizing bloodshed regardless of whether the patient dies. Hard, and sometimes brutal, choices need to be made between limited civilian casualties and collateral damage during the decisive use of force and an open-ended war of attrition that will produce far higher cumulative civilian casualties and collateral damage. The Coalition will also need to avoid the trap of blundering into some kind of ceasefire, where Qaddafi's forces and unity will give him the advantage. This will be a "peace" that simply becomes a war of attrition and terror campaign by other means.

At the same time, France, Britain, and the US now have a special obligation to both finish what they started in military terms, and deal with the aftermath.
[emphasis above is mine]

Again, does this not hearken back to the old Vietnam adage of destroying the village in order to save it?  If memory serves, hundreds of thousands of villagers' deaths later, the villages were - in fact - not saved.  Nor does Cordesman seem willing to acknowledge any possibility of the blowback that might ensue against the US - and the West, in general - from the kind of ruthless bombing campaign he prescribes, which would feature the slaughter of hundreds, even thousands, of Muslims - most of them the victims of a situation they had no hand in creating - at the hands of mostly American bombardiers, some of them joystick-aces - their "cockpits" kitted up with cigarettes and insignia-mono'd coffee cups  - guiding Hellfire missiles into congested urban areas.

For Cordesman, a cease-fire is unacceptable ("a trap"), as, he assumes,  it would engender a long war of attrition.  He frets that this would result in more civilian casualties.  I'm not convinced that a cease-fire would necessarily fore-ordain such a result.  But I am concerned that Cordesman's governing considerations here are not the welfare of the people of Libya, but the reputation of the US military and the re-assertion of US global pre-eminence after the fiasco of Iraq and the looming fiasco of Afpak.  Cordesman's world-view has rested on that foundation for many years.  He can neither envision nor accept any other.

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