General Sir David Richards, chief of Britain’s defense staff, has made an important and courageous statement calling on NATO to step up its air strikes in Libya. He told the Daily Telegraph:
[W]e need to do more. If we do not up the ante now there is a risk that the conflict could result in Gaddafi clinging to power. . . . At present NATO is not attacking infrastructure targets in Libya. But if we want to increase the pressure on Gaddafi’s regime then we need to give serious consideration to increasing the range of targets we can hit.
Gen. Richards is absolutely right, and kudos for him for speaking out against the excessive, counterproductive restraint being shown by his own government and those of France and the U.S.—the three nations that are the de-facto leaders of the international coalition arrayed against Qaddafi. NATO has been curiously limited in its use of air power, avoiding (as Richards pointed out) the kind of infrastructure targets—ranging from the one oil refinery still under Qaddafi’s control to transportation networks and government ministries—that in previous campaigns, from Serbia to Iraq, were routinely targeted in the early days of air strikes.
Such restraint is not dictated by the wording of UN Security Council resolution 1973 which, as I have argued elsewhere, gives NATO forces wide-ranging authority “to find a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people” and which leads to “a peaceful and sustainable solution.” The only peaceful and sustainable conclusion is for Qaddafi to be removed from power. That won’t happen by a stoke of divine intervention, however. It will require more support for the Libyan rebels. The sooner the better.