Everyone knows someone like Muammar Gaddafi; he’s the guy who always gets a little too liquored up and starts picking fights. Everyone usually ignores him, but occasionally he goes too far and someone will give him a whooping. Usually, guys like that change and mend their ways as they get older, but, well, some like Gaddafi are just idiots who need to be hammered flush to the ground before they can hurt anyone else.
Gaddafi has been out of favor with the civilized world for most of his 42-year autocratic rule of Libya. He seized control of the North African country in 1969 and immediately began a program of state-sponsored terrorism. He has abetted acts of terrorism by the Irish Republican Army, the Japanese Red Army Faction and the Black Septembrists who murdered athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. He has armed, trained and provided refuge for the PLO, narco-terrorist FARC in Columbia and communist insurgent groups in the Philippines. He provided troops to sustain Idi Amin’s murderous rule in Uganda and Charles Taylor in Liberia. His agents have been responsible for bombings in several European cities, and in 1981 he provided logistical and training support for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 which killed 270 passengers, crewmembers and citizens in Lockerbie, Scotland. He has attempted to purchase biological and nuclear weapons and has stockpiled several dozen tons of chemical munitions.
United Nations. The most direct action taken against this jackanapes was a series of air strikes conducted in 1986 after the bombing of a Berlin nightclub killed several U.S. servicemen. Carrier-based aircraft bombed military and government facilities in Tripoli and Benghazi but, despite being specifically targeted, Gaddafi came away unscathed.
When Gaddafi wasn’t busy exporting terrorism or supporting genocidal dictators, he was busy immiserating his own people through a series of self-aggrandizing schemes designed to promote himself as the head of a mythical Pan-African socialist movement. An estimated ten- to twenty-percent of Libya’s population is employed by the regime to spy on the remainder. Throughout his rule, Gaddafi has used his network of spies to suppress opposition with punishment ranging from three-year jail sentences to public executions broadcast on government-run television. When Gaddafi’s thugs cannot arrest a subject for suspected crimes, family members are routinely arrested and held until the suspect turns himself in, or their homes and sometimes whole villages are bulldozed.
Despite Gaddafi’s best efforts to terrorize an entire nation, he has fallen short and the people of Libya, like those in Egypt, Tunisia and other regional neighbors, have risen to cast out their leader and his corrupt regime, but Gaddafi is not going to go without a fight. While force has been used to varying degrees in all of the countries caught up in the wave of democratic revolution sweeping the region, no one has gone as far as Gaddafi to use his military and police to suppress demonstrations as he. While many soldiers, airmen and policemen have either refused to fight or have joined the revolutionaries, Gaddafi has still managed to kill 1,000 of his taxpayers and forced a hundred times that many to flee the country.
The greatest violence against the Libyan people has been through the use of military airpower and foreign mercenary troops, and it is incumbent upon the United States, either through NATO or unilaterally, to remove this threat. While most of our military assets are scattered far across the globe, the most underused at this moment is the U.S. Navy, particularly naval aviation and its supporting infrastructure, and it is time to move a carrier group off of Libya to shoot down any Libyan military aircraft and destroy the targeting radar that supports them.
This kind of gambit has worked before. You will recall that starting in 1992 the U.S. and its allies stopped Iraqi persecution of the Kurds in northern Iraq by establishing a no-fly zone in the region, and in 1993 NATO established a no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina that included flying some close air support missions that significantly reduced the level of violence in that region and paved the way for a peaceful solution to the conflict. Eliminating Gaddafi’s air power will accomplish three things: protect and embolden those who strive for freedom and democracy in Libya, force the military units that remain loyal to Gaddafi to accept the inevitability of his demise and convince foreign mercenaries that they are rapidly heading for the unemployment line and encourage their hasty decampment.
Committing the lives of our service members to any military operation should never be done at a whim, but there are times like this, that it is important to take action. For to do nothing, would be, as President George H. Bush said in 1992 before committing troops to another African war, “Morally, a failure to respond to massive human catastrophe … would scar the soul of our nation.”