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Military Intervention In Libya: Here Are The Options

From simply jamming radar systems to a direct strike on Muammar Gaddafi’s bunker, UN-backed military intervention to protect civilians could take many forms.

French air force bomber (Mashley Morgan)
French air force bomber (Mashley Morgan)
Isabelle Lasserre

PARIS - France, Britain, the United States and its Arab allies will have to choose between several scenarios for their military operations in Libya, following the UN Security Council's vote in favor of a no-fly zone and air strikes against Gaddafi's forces.

(On Friday, the Libyan government announced an immediate ceasefire and a halt to all military operations against rebels following the UN resolution. The move was widely seen as an attempt by Gaddafi's regime to buy time as Western military leaders prepared to act.)

The no-fly zone element of the resolution -- suggested by diplomats -- seemed designed to avoid a Russian or Chinese veto, masking in language acceptable to everyone the reality of military intervention.

When a no-fly zone was imposed in Bosnia in the early 1990s to stop the Serbs from shelling civilians, it did not prevent the Srebrenica massacre. A no-fly zone implemented over Iraq for 12 years did nothing to influence Saddam Hussein. By the time the no-fly zone is put in place over Libya, Gaddafi's troops could have regained control of the last rebel-controlled areas.

Instead, because Thursday evening's UN Security Council's draft resolution promises to protect civilians "by all means', the Allies could decide almost immediately to launch targeted strikes against strategic objectives in Libya, such as its air defense, command centers and airports, in a bid to ground its air force.

Rommel's route

At the same time, electronic warfare could be employed to neutralize Libyan radar systems. Under that scenario, France could participate with planes stationed at the Solenzara airbase on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. It could also send its AWACS radar planes. Such military action would send a strong signal. Some hope it could have a strong psychological impact on Gaddafi's entourage, prompting it to abandon the colonel.

If the goal of the intervention is to bring down the regime, as some diplomats have suggested, the allies could also decide to attack Gaddafi's tanks and infantry, striking in the desert, along the road once travelled by the British Eighth Army and the German General Erwin Rommel. This would be "a particularly intense act, both politically and militarily," warns one high-ranking French military source, who has doubts that it would suffice in unseating the regime.

Faced with the threat of air strikes, Gaddafi will not fail to disperse his forces on the ground, as Saddam Hussein did in March 2003. It will then be difficult to avoid collateral damage on civilian populations. Another military source underlines that air power alone can never win a war. "To destroy an army, you need to go the whole way," he says. The draft resolution, however, excludes the use of ground troops.

Although weakened, Gaddafi can still count on the loyalty of 10,000 to 12,000 soldiers and additional African mercenaries, as well as surface-to-air missiles and significant numbers of tanks and artillery also still under his control.

The last option would be to directly attack the regime's center of gravity, Gaddafi himself, by striking his bunker, or other shelters where he is known to take refuge. In 1986, U.S. air strikes launched by President Ronald Reagan against Gaddafi's residence narrowly missed him.

Since then, military satellite technology and strike systems have become much more sophisticated, which should make such an operation easier. But w should remember that in March 2003, the very first air strike on Baghdad was aimed at eliminating Saddam Hussein. It missed its target.

Read the original version in French

Photo Credit - (Mashley Morgan)

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U.S., France, Israel: How Three Model Democracies Are Coming Unglued

France, Israel, United States: these three democracies all face their own distinct problems. But these problems are revealing disturbing cracks in society that pose a real danger to hard-earned progress that won't be easily regained.

Image of a crowd of protestors holding Israeli flags and a woman speaking into a megaphone

Israeli anti-government protesters take to the streets in Tel-Aviv, after Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Defence Minister Yoav Galant.

Dominique Moïsi

"I'd rather be a Russian than a Democrat," reads the t-shirt of a Republican Party supporter in the U.S.

"We need to bring the French economy to its knees," announces the leader of the French union Confédération Générale du Travail.

"Let's end the power of the Supreme Court filled with leftist and pro-Palestinian Ashkenazis," say Israeli government cabinet ministers pushing extreme judicial reforms

The United States, France, Israel: three countries, three continents, three situations that have nothing to do with each other. But each country appears to be on the edge of a nervous breakdown of what seemed like solid democracies.

How can we explain these political excesses, irrational proclamations, even suicidal tendencies?

The answer seems simple: in the United States, in France, in Israel — far from an exhaustive list — democracy is facing the challenge of society's ever-greater polarization. We can manage the competition of ideas and opposing interests. But how to respond to rage, even hatred, borne of a sense of injustice and humiliation?

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