The Libyan intervention is now reaching an inflection point, with the limited initial commitment of force apparently incapable of achieving the expressed -- and universally desired -- strategic outcome of driving Moammar Gadhafi from power. As a result, Britain and France will send small teams of military advisers in an effort to improve the rebels' fighting capability, and the U.S. has decided to commit UAV drones to the intervention. But neither measure is likely to have a rapidly decisive impact on the fighting, which has now devolved into a war of attrition that neither side seems poised to win, which raises the question of subsequent further escalations.
As an advocate of limited commitment of force to the conflict, I feel obliged to recognize that it has so far proven insufficient, and also to note that the current military stand-off was predicted by many of those who, whether based on military or political criteria, opposed the intervention. Nevertheless, there are a number of arguments now being wielded that deserve some attention.
- The current level of force cannot possibly result in a political resolution of the conflict. Libya's new foreign minister just proposed an election six months following a ceasefire, with a transitional government managing the interim and Gadhafi's role open to negotiation. It would be foolish not to be skeptical of the Gadhafi regime's sincerity, but clearly the intervention in its current limited form has already altered Gadhafi's political calculus, and it will probably continue to do so moving forward. So the military standoff should not necessarily be equated with political paralysis.