What was the exact timeline in the sequence of events that have unleashed the current blitzkrieg in Libya? Were I of a skeptical persuasion, I might suspect that the No-Fly Zone over Libya was to begin at say midnight, that Gaddafi’s announced Cease Fire was also to begin at around midnight, and that the bombing began at around midnight because the regime’s tanks were currently flying over the desert towards Benghazi to get a toehold there before the frontline became a border at midnight.
I certainly do not condone crimes against humanity and international trials ought happen to establish precise culpability for the regime’s use of African mercenaries to butcher demonstrators, and military air power to kill unarmed civilians. But general confusion over timelines, poor chain of command & communication, not to mention sloppy rules of engagement, just might mean the blame is less black-and-white than the military brass that advise presidents might like you all to think.
Clausewitz, a famous Prussian general/philosopher deemed it prudent to always use the minimum force to achieve the aim – a point that may have been lost in the eagerness to get the bad guys. The consequences of doing otherwise include alienating for generations whole segments of populations because of your own perceived brutality, not to mention expending very expensive military resources that might be needed elsewhere before they can be replenished – including lives of your own forces and the ever-present innocent third parties.
A particular contention that could be challenged is that to implement a No-Fly Zone, you need to first take out the anti-air emplacements in the region. Why? This theater of war is confined to coastal areas. Standoff weapons fired from well offshore could accurately take out infringing military Libyan aircraft that are detected with space-based, high-altitude and electronic surveillance from a good distance without flying anywhere near the land.
Nor is this air campaign particularly practical from a longer-term strategic perspective. We tip off third party observers as to tactics, observed limitations, war modes, and other reserved capabilities that would diminish our effectiveness should we need to go to war against them – and they might be somewhat more potent an adversary than the current tin-pot Libyan military.
Perhaps if we stop now, proffer a reduced territory to the regime conditional on freedom of their people to live in either Libya with reparations to the displaced, we just might bring this to an instant end?