Yesterday afternoon I found my 18-year-old son watching a History Channel program about allied bombing during World War II and said, "Why don't you put on CNN and watch a war that's still going on?" He did so, and a few hours later he was holding forth learnedly on the problems with verifying a cease fire. But aside from getting my son to follow the news for the first time in his life, what are we accomplishing in Libya?
Lots of bombs are falling, and numerous government tanks have been destroyed. But the rebels seem no closer to victory; according to the Times they tried to advance from Benghazi toward the town of Ajdabiya, which they held until a few days ago, but were driven back by government forces dug in along the road. Routing infantry from trenches is a lot more difficult than blasting tanks in the open, so it might take several days of bombing just to open a way for the rebels into this one town. And what if Qaddafi's men just fall back to the town and dig in among the civilians? From what I can tell they seem determined to fight, and if they share any of Qaddafi's ideology being bombed by Americans will only strengthen their resolve.
Yesterday the British PM denounced the notion that Qaddafi's men were honoring a cease fire, but since they are being bombed by NATO and attacked by the rebels in at least one place (the road to Ajdabiya), why would they? This posturing smacks of a determination not to allow a cease fire to take hold until the bombers have had time to smash Qaddafi's army. Is that what "protecting civilians" means? I know many hearts are going out to the rag-tag band of rebels fighting for freedom, but honestly rag-tag bands don't make for very effective governments even when they do win, which seems very unlikely in this case.