Italy called for a cease-fire in Italy today. “We have seen the effects of the crisis and therefore also of NATO action not only in eastern and southwestern regions but also in Tripoli,” said Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, as quoted by the AFP news service. “I believe an immediate humanitarian suspension of hostilities is required in order to create effective humanitarian corridors.”
In other words, NATO is bombing the crap out of Tripoli, but Qaddafi is still breathing. Frattini said he wants to see “ever more detailed information on the results” of NATO strikes, and condemned “the dramatic errors that hit civilians, which is clearly not an objective of the NATO mission.” A recent “dramatic error” is said to have killed 24 civilians, including five children.
Coming on the heels of Norway’s decision to withdraw its planes from the operation, and warnings from senior British military officials that the Libyan quagmire is “demoralizing personnel,” Italy’s reservations prompted Natalino Ronzitti of the International Affairs Institute in Rome to judge that “the alliance is coming unstuck.”
Meanwhile, over in the United States, Barack Obama’s risible claims to unfettered war-making power, provided the “hostility” level of the operation is kept to a simmer, are running into increasing congressional resistance.
Here’s the problem NATO is confronting: creatures like Moammar Qaddafi do not stride onto the field with squadrons of their finest warriors to do battle. They hide in civilian population centers. This is done precisely so that even the most accurate firepower runs a high risk of causing collateral damage.
War is always settled by morale. The morale of civilized nations is depleted by causing collateral damage among the enemy population. If, on the other hand, Moammar Qaddafi was attacking Italy with an eye toward taking out Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, he wouldn’t be terribly concerned about how many bunga-bunga girls were vaporized in the process.
These realities should be taken into consideration when military actions are planned. Why do the great nations of the West keep ending up like frightened punks in a gangster film, wailing that they never really meant to hurt anyone? Realistic goals, and the means necessary to obtain them, should be the first components of any military mission, not an afterthought hastily cooked up when the “alliance comes unstuck.”
France, which is running the show in Libya, blew off Italy’s concerns and promised to “intensify the pressure on Qaddafi” instead. “Any pause in operations would risk allowing him to play for time and reorganize,” said French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. “In the end, it would be the civilian population that would suffer from the smallest sign of weakness on our behalf.” That may become increasingly difficult to explain to the residents of Tripoli.