Operation Odyssey Dawn began in earnest Saturday afternoon, with the United States firing cruise missiles to support French and British air attacks. CBS News also reports that American B-2 stealth bombers were involved in the operation. By the end of the day, U.S. officials were confident that Libya’s air defenses were “severely disabled,” setting the stage for the no-fly zone authorized by U.N. Security Council.
The target list included airbases, fuel storage facilities, and command-and-control facilities. Allied bombs and missiles struck several targets in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
The exact extent of the damage is unknown. Libyan state television reported 48 dead and 15 wounded, but it also reported the allies had bombed civilian targets in numerous cities (including Benghazi, the city we’re trying to protect) and “a hospital in the suburbs of Tripoli,” as related by Reuters Africa. The Libyans also claimed, during the course of the afternoon, to have shot down French and British fighter jets, as well as the entire Gryffindor quidditch team. We’ll have to wait for some reliable bomb damage assessment from Western military commanders.
U.S. officials told Fox News they “do not know what Qaddafi will do next following the military strikes.” The Libyan dictator remains defiant, vicious, and insane, declaring that “America will be bathed in blood.” Wait, sorry, that was Louis Farrakhan, holding forth on a Chicago radio program. Qaddafi has mostly confined his threats to unspecified “military and civilian targets in the Mediterranean.”
Qaddafi also wrote President Obama a letter in which he declared, “even if, God forbid, there were a war between Libya and America, you would remain my son and I would still love you.” This caused Knut, the incredibly cute polar bear cub who captured the world’s heart a few years back, to keel over dead. That’s one more crime the tyrant of Tripoli must answer for.
For his part, President Obama is vaca… um, working hard to develop trade opportunities that will create jobs in Brazil. According to the New York Times, Obama and the Brazilian president “did not announce any major agreements after their private meeting and subsequent sessions with business leaders from the United States and Brazil,” but “they did announce accords for further talks.” President Obama took time from his busy schedule of meetings to set up future meetings to commit American armed forces to war, or whatever you call lobbing a hundred cruise missiles at someone. Brazil, incidentally, is one of the five countries which abstained from the United Nations vote to authorize military operations against Libya.
This did not sit well with the American anti-war movement, which had been gathering in Times Square anyway, since today marks the eight anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Suddenly they have something new to be upset about, and it’s a profound indicator of how completely Obama’s popularity has deflated that they commenced doing so. It will be interesting to see if the mainstream media still feels like running interference for Obama by savaging his critics. If so, the antiwar movement just became honorary teabaggers.
The future of Odyssey Dawn is unclear. If today spelled the end of Libyan air defenses, the no-fly zone will go into effect… and then what? The civilized world waited until Qaddafi beat the resistance to a bloody pulp before intervening. How long would it take for them to regroup and march all the way back to Tripoli from their redoubts around Benghazi, if we do nothing but ground Qaddafi’s air force?
How long will Britain and France, with relatively limited U.S. support, be able to maintain that no-fly zone? China has already expressed “regrets” over the operations, saying it “consistently disagrees with the use of force in international relations,” except for when its client North Korea occasionally goes nuts and blows a few innocent people away with artillery barrages. Meanwhile, other parts of the world demand our attention: Yemen is collapsing into bloody chaos, Hamas just fired fifty artillery shells at innocent civilians in Israel and provoked a response that could escalate into a war, and on Friday Syria sent ten thousand security goons into one of its cities to crush a pro-democracy demonstration.
It seems unlikely Operation Odyssey Dawn can last for months, let alone years. If it does continue for an extended period of time, and Qaddafi will not be allowed to butcher the last of the rebels, it would seem the most likely outcome would be for Libya to effectively split in two. Would we then guarantee the security of New Libya from invasion by Qadaffistan? It would be silly to start grumbling about “exit strategies” after one day, but curiosity about the long-term strategic objective is reasonable.
The quickest and easiest ending would be to kill Qaddafi, who richly deserves it. You don’t need any romantic illusions about the Libyan resistance to know the creature they’re rebelling against has the blood of American civilians on his hands. AFP reports several bombs landed in the vicinity of his bunker, but It looks like we didn’t get him today. Day 2 of Odyssey Dawn begins.