Monday, June 13, 2011

Standard Libya Post

I forget how many times I have said this, but juxtaposing civilian protection and getting rid of Qaddafi as being entirely separate endeavors seems to be just as naive as Ned Stark's expectations.  How does one protect the civilians if Qaddafi stays in place?  He cannot make a credible commitment of any kind. He has promised to kill all of his opponents, which would seem to include heaps of civilians.  So, tell me, how do we protect civilians while not upending Qaddafi? 

During the past few days, I went to and from Bagotville, where many of the Canadian pilots flying over Libya are usually based.  I had a conversation with one of the senior pilots while the air show was going on (so the conversation was punctuated by the sound of freedom--afterburners, baby!).  It was very clear that these guys (there are female pilots in the Canadian Air Force but apparently none in the squadron that was sent) take quite seriously civilian protection, returning back to base much of the time with their bombs since the risk of collateral damage was unacceptable for many of the missions.

More striking was the common perception amongst the pilots that boots on the ground will be needed.  I wonder if American pilots, who are much more service-oriented, would admit that they could not do the job alone.  But the boots on the ground would raise real risks of mission creep--if they remain after Qaddaffi's departure.  Again, it is damn near impossible to separate regime change from civilian protection in this case.  Perhaps elsewhere it is possible, but not here given the course of events.

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