The NATO mission/war/kinetic experiment occurring in the skies above Libya has gone on for nearly three months. What began ostensibly as a “humanitarian” mission premised on protecting civilians from the terror of Muammar Gadaffi has morphed its way into a nearly full-scale war. The Guardian reports today that the UK and France are now going to use Apache helicopters to engage Gadaffi’s loyalist forces:
Apaches, which are being used in counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan, can manoeuvre and attack small targets in relatively built-up areas. Heavily armed Apaches and French Tiger helicopters are equipped with night vision equipment and electronic guidance systems. Forces loyal to the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, have shed their uniforms, are using civilian vehicles and hiding armour near civilian buildings, including hospitals and schools.
This is a dramatic example of “mission creep,” effectively changing what this operation was to be in the first place. NATO officers insist that there will not be any boots on the ground during this war. Apache helicopters are much closer to the ground than the bombers currently used by NATO forces. If Gaddafi’s ground forces follow the example the United States taught the Afghan mujahedeen in the 1980’s those helicopters will be more vulnerable than planes higher in the sky.
This escalation of force indicates a larger trend among Western nations: war is simply a way of life now. This notion was embraced in the fallout of the 9/11 attacks (themselves a response to Western war-making in the Middle East in the nineties) and used to justify a lawless attack on Iraq. The populace was told to be on its guard at all times because they never knew when the next attack may come. After nearly a decade’s worth of fear-mongering about terrorism from the Bush administration, Barack Obama was elected as a change from the “shoot first, ask questions years later” crowd.
This was before Libya. It is well known that the Obama administration has in fact enshrined the worst excesses of the Bush foreign policy (GTMO, the Afghan war, state secrets). What little hope Americans had that Obama would not ignite a third conflagration in the Middle East was dashed as the first bombs hit Tripoli. The arguments against this war are legion. It is now completely illegal as Congress has not even attempted to check the president’s powers under the War Powers Act. The larger issue here is that President Obama, in his infinite wisdom, not only has declared his ability to assassinate anyone around the globe who he deems a “terrorist” but asserted his privilege to initiate war with any country at any time, for any reason. Mission creep doesn’t even begin to describe this totalitarian power.
Given the history of the United States for the past ten years this shouldn’t be surprising. The decade began with one president deciding to attack a country that posed no imminent threat. Now a new president has unilaterally decided to attack yet another country that poses exactly zero threat to America. And yet the fighting continues until it ultimately ends or sees ground forces invading the western areas of Libya. The President doesn’t even flinch now when using bombs to murder the leader of another country from the air.
This mission creep saw its genesis in the ever-expanding “war on terror.” Though the Obama administration eschews such lofty rhetoric the fact remains that this administration not only escalated one war but started another in the Middle East despite supposed “progressive” goals of exiting the region entirely. Now that Obama is securely ensconced in the national security state, this problem will keep extending until the Defense department runs out of money. Given the country’s precarious financial position, this seems more than likely. It is still important to trace the beginning of this mission creep, which to be fair has really been progressing since the end of WW II. And it now appears to be burning out over the sands of Libya, whether the US government or its people like it or not.