- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at email@example.com.
That was a pretty fast turnaround for the Obama Administration on Libya. He, and his aides, are to be commended for not getting off balance and staying there. I have been pretty critical of them, so I want to be clear today that I think they have done the right thing.
Now, the sooner this no-fly zone gets up and running, the better. I think it would be good if Arab aircraft and pilots did most of the actually bombing and shooting. We can give them refueling and AWACs aircraft doing command and control. I know, a lot easier said than done. Running a no-fly zone is difficult and complex, especially when the enforcers are a coalition thrown together on the fly.
In particular, combat search and rescue of downed pilots could be tough to organize. I think best bet might be helicopters operating off carriers and/or amphibious ships. But if you are rescuing Arab air crews that might get complicated, so the best option might be having double helicopter teams — that is, a Navy or Marine helicopter, and one from the nation of the downed flier. Again, much easier said than done.
I also think the rules of engagement could get tricky. Presumably the no-fly rules will include helicopters, which are hard to catch.
Finally, what do we do when Qaddafi puts anti-aircraft batteries in mosques, orphanages and chemical weapons depots?
In related news, it is good to see that Egypt is said to be supplying the rebels with weapons. What they need are AK-47s and anti-tank rockets. And some .50 caliber machine guns might also be handy. Plus, some secure communications equipment, especially we can intercept Qaddafi’s electronic signals and then pass along the resulting targeting information to the rebels. The more Libyans fight for their own freedom, the better for them and for us.