We are sending six F18s and roughly 140 pers. to assist in the Lybian No Fly Zone.
To be sure, this marks a surprising shift from words to action. However the purpose of this action remains unclear to many. Military operations shouldn't be goals in and of themselves. Hence, the NFZ should not be it's own purpose. We may derive quite obviously from this that the operation, which denies Tripoli the chance to utilizing its airforce to decimate the rebel force, that our purpose is to protect the rebels. So what happens once Tripoli stops sending aircraft, and resorts to sending armored forces down the road to Benghazi?
We will face a new choice. Either we, the West, fail at our evident goal, or we commit to further operations. Some have called for a "No Drive Zone", which is a ludicrously disinginuous way to say we are commiting to the destrution or capitulation of the Tripoli regime.
Every knowledgeable general or analyst should scream in despair at these words. Does this mean we have our warplanes bomb all of Ghadaffi's forces? In accordance with the principles of war, there is no way we could conclusively affect the conditions on the ground - who wins - without having boots on the ground. That means an invasion force.
And what do we know about invasion forces, even when they win against opponents as weak as Lybia's military? To guarantee that we "win the war", we have to also guarantee that we "win the peace", or remain behind to guarantee security during transition, and gently nudge Lybia in a conveniently democratic and liberal direction.
To underline the importance of this last statement; imagine if we had bombed the Taliban out of power, but had declined to impose our will on Kabul after the initial fight. The Taliban would have walked back in, and our investment in treasure and blood would have been likened to a brief vacation from power by the Taliban.
In Lybia, we could possibly succeed in eliminating the current regime from the air, or weakening it to the point that it can no longer return. However, even if this is the case (not a guarantee), we cannot guarantee that what comes next is not a period of anarchy which makes Kadhaffi look like a national hero, or perhaps a brutal regime making Khadaffi look like a Saint. One thing is certain, we would have no say in the matter.
To reiterate: Getting involved in "limited gains" operations when these conclude with open-ended scenarios is, in my humble opinion irresponsible policy-making. So I hope dearly that our governments have access to information which we do not, and are commiting our forces to conflict for a rational goal.