Libya is 700,000 square miles. It is on the list of the top 20 largest countries on earth. Obama is sending two drones —big deal.
The Pentagon says they will be used to help pick out the good guys’ pickup trucks from the bad guys’ pickup trucks and then take them out. Picking out targets with a Predator drone is like trying to see the world through a soda straw. Without the bigger intelligence picture and coordination with elements on the ground, it is difficult to see how they could be anything but marginally effective.
Committing the drones may be a sop to NATO allies who have complained that the U.S. took the most valuable and effective combat air assets (C-130 gunships and A-10 close support aircraft) out of the fight.
This “contribution” is anything but a game changer.
The drones are just another one-off step from a White House that does not want to get in but is afraid of being left out.
The reality is that the U.S., as Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged, does not have a vital national interest in taking down Colonel Muammar Qadhafi. The rest of NATO combined, even if it had the will, lacks the means.
Obama is floundering. That’s not to say that the U.S. should be leading a charge to Tripoli. The U.S. simply does not have vital interests that justify troops on the ground or a major military effort.
What was needed from the start—and what is needed now—is a clear and responsible plan to isolate the regime and support an opposition that is worthy to support. That was always the only practical option.
Now, the clock is ticking and time is running out. Sooner or later, terrorists will set up a network to send foreign fighters to Libya. Then the West will face the prospect of Qadhafi on one side and a Somalia-like debacle on the other.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has a much bigger problem: a Middle East going through historical transformation. The White House has no grand strategy other than to turn on CNN each morning and see what is up. The President needs to wake up.
Freedom fighters, Islamists, and Iran all fighting to “win the future” in the Middle East. Rather than sending in a pair of drones, Obama should be exercising energetic leadership now and continuing to engage in the right way in the months ahead. That is what is needed to protect U.S. interests and to promote liberty, security, and economic opportunity in the Middle East.