Operation Odyssey Dawn: What Next After No-Fly Zone?
Can Operation: Odyssey Dawn Stop Gaddafi?
France, Britain and the United States have begun military strikes against Libya in what is being called Operation: Odyssey Dawn. Muammar Gaddafi has denounced the western attacks as "terrorism" and vowed that military aggressors will never defeat the Libyan people, even as Col. Gaddafi himself attacks the Libyan people with artillery. Gaddafi promised "a long war" in Libya.
Therein lies the problem in the newly-hatched military conflict. While firing missiles at known military installations is the easy part, what happens next?
"But this is the beginning of the war, Gaddafi's primary capabilities are conventional armour and particularly artillery. Destroying his air force and isolating his forces will not by itself win the war. The war is on the ground."
Gaddafi's main avenue of attack is via artillery and ground forces: how will French warplanes tell the difference between Libyan loyalist armor and artillery and that of the rebels?
No-Fly Zone Established: US Joint Chiefs
Admiral Mike Mullen of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff has claimed an early coalition victory, saying that the no-fly zone is in place, and that the next step is indeed attacking Gaddafi's artillery.
Al Jazeera points out that air power is overrated, as the US learned rather painfully in Afghanistan and Iraq. Meanwhile, taking steps beyond imposing a no-fly zone put the coalition at a divergence with the Arab League, though the Arab League itself made no move to impose the no-fly zone itself.
How effectively will the newly-formed coalition be able to target Libyan military forces? What happens once they fire on the wrong installation? Without ground troops, that seems inevitable.
The larger question: what happens if (and when) air strikes fail to force Gaddafi to back down? The US, at least, has not cited regime change in Libya as a goal of Operation: Odyssey Dawn, just that Gaddafi accept the UN resolution which bans him from attacking civilians.
UN Resolution, or Regime Change in Libya?
Will Gaddafi believe this? Unlikely at best. Will Libya's neighbors believe this, or will they start to see this as another Western attempt to carve up the Middle East?
The US, at least publicly, stated that its involvement will be limited, and that it will not commit to placing ground troops in Libya. Britain and France are going with much more aggressive rhetoric.
How likely is this to bear out? Will the US really let France and Britain take the lead on the ground, should it come to that?
For France's and Britain's parts, how long, exactly, are they willing to commit to a new Middle East adventure? Neither has a particularly strong economic situation at home. While Gaddafi is clearly a bad guy to the French and British (who keenly remember the Lockerbie bombing), how long will military involvement in North Africa remain popular with the European public?