Rules of engagement

The rules of engagement for our pilots in Libya are troubling. Two good examples of the strange judgements they are required to make:

“It’s a very problematic situation,” Ham said. “It’s not a clear distinction, because we’re not talking about a regular military force. Many in the opposition truly are civilians, and they are trying to protect their homes, their families, their businesses, and in doing that some of them have taken up arms. But they are basically civilians.”

So they are protected by American pilots. But what about the rest of the anti-Gadhafi forces? “There are also those in the opposition that have armored vehicles and have heavy weapons,” Ham continued. “Those parts of the opposition, I would argue, are no longer covered under the protect-civilians clause.”

The bottom line: The United States will protect Libyan rebels if they unarmed or lightly armed. If those rebels are heavily armed, no.


Ham was asked what U.S. forces are instructed to do when they encounter pro-Gadhafi military units that are heavily armed but aren’t actually attacking civilians. “What we look for is, to the degree that we can, to discern intent,” Ham explained. He described a hypothetical situation in which an American pilot spotted a Libyan unit south of Benghazi. If the pilot determined the unit was moving toward the city, he could attack. If he determined the unit was setting up some sort of position, he could also attack. But if he determined the unit was moving away, then he couldn’t attack. “There’s no simple answer,” Ham said. “Sometimes these are situations that brief much better at headquarters than they do in the cockpit of an aircraft.”

We outmatch the enemy so badly that we might well succeed anyway, but this is no way to run a military campaign. And why? To avoid angering the Arabs? That’s a foregone conclusion.

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