Debra J. Saunders
The families of the 270 people killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 no longer will have to watch as Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, the man who ordered the attack, visits New York to deliver his long rants to the United Nations. President Barack Obama's decision to authorize cruise missile strikes on Tripoli and the NATO mission paid off. "Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground," the president proclaimed Thursday, "we achieved our objectives, and our NATO mission will soon come to an end."

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said in a statement, "Though the Administration was criticized both for moving too quickly and for not moving quickly enough, it is undeniable that the NATO campaign prevented a massacre and contributed mightily to (Gadhafi's) undoing without deploying boots on the ground or suffering a single American fatality."

It wasn't a clear call in March. The U.S. military already was stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that enforcing a no-fly zone would not be so quick and painless as some hawks suggested it would be. Others noted that the get-Gadhafi crowd didn't even know who the Libyan rebels were or whether they were extremists who likely would turn on the United States.

The administration seemed lukewarm on the effort. An Obama adviser described the president's role in the NATO mission as "leading from behind." The administration would not use the word "war." On March 18, Obama told congressional leaders that U.S. military action would last "days, not weeks."

European leaders also seemed not to understand that they had started a war that could be long and bloody. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe predicted Gadhafi would be defeated in a matter of days or weeks, not months. Three months later, NATO ran out of shells. Germany, which had stayed away from the Libyan job, had to donate ammunition.

Yet the campaign worked, and that's what counts. I've got four more thoughts on it:

(SET BOLD)--Drones are king; no more boots on the ground. (END BOLD) After suffering more than 4,400 U.S. troop fatalities in Iraq and more than 1,800 fatalities in or around Afghanistan, the American public has no appetite for further loss of blood and treasure. Vice President Joe Biden boasted Thursday that the U.S. effort paid off with no loss of life and a $2 billion price tag. If the two U.S. airmen who ejected from an F-15 that went down March 21 had been caught by Gadhafi loyalists, this saga might have had a very different ending.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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