Bombing Tripoli

The latest Fox News update on Operation Odyssey Dawn begins as follows: “Coalition forces launched air strikes over Libya for a fifth day Wednesday, targeting sites that support or supply Muammar al-Qaddafi’s military around the capital and other cities, U.S. defense officials said.”

Is the Administration still telling people that our goals are not “regime change” or “getting Qaddafi?”  Because once the airports are gone, bombing the crap out of Tripoli doesn’t really fit into the “no-fly zone” mission parameter.

It arguably does have something to do with “protecting civilian populations,” because despite four days of bombing, Qaddafi’s goons are still showering them with artillery shells.  Government forces are engaged with rebel populations at such close range that we can’t pick them off with air strikes.  The Washington Post just published a report with the headline, “Allied strikes pummel Libya’s air force, but do little to stop attacks on civilians.”  The body count continues to pile up.

Bombs and missiles have been finding their way into Qaddafi’s bunkers and compounds, but sadly, we haven’t gotten him yet.  He just popped up at a compound for a quick “I am here, I am here, I am here” victory dance.  Pity we couldn’t have delivered a Tomahawk missile with “I AM HERE TOO” painted on the nose at the same moment, but we’re not likely to drop heavy ordinance on him while he’s surrounded by his “civilian” admirers.

Polls have thus far indicated solid support for the Libyan operation, which is good news for a President who rolled into March with collapsing approval ratings.  Americans have an understandable, and commendable, tendency to close ranks during a military operation.  They also care about civilian slaughters, when the media chooses to bring them to the public’s attention.  They also correctly view Qaddafi as a scumbag whose death would be long-delayed justice for murdered Americans.

Those poll numbers won’t hold up if this turns into an endless police action, especially if we find ourselves committed to the expensive defense of what amounts to a new dissident nation, run by people who may not turn out to be the “decent opposition” of “judges and teachers, businessmen and former members of the Qaddafi regime” that Fouad Ajami rhapsodizes about in a Wall Street Journal editorial today.

There’s really no happy ending for Odyssey Dawn that doesn’t involve Qaddafi leaving either Libya or Earth.  I’m all in favor of punching his ticket.  I just wonder why anyone is bothering to expend the effort on claiming we have any other goal in mind.  Wars are serious business, and we deserve an honest accounting of the objectives.  We also deserve an Administration which agrees with itself about what they are.