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Time to destroy the Libyan Air Force

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By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Obama finally stirred himself to address the carnage in Libya, saying the “suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable.” Without calling on Muammar Gaddafi to step down – as he did to Mubarak for far less – he announced no sanctions or punishment. He left it to Gaddafi. “The Libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence, to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need and to respect the rights of its people,” he said. “It must be held accountable for its failure to meet those responsibilities and face the cost of continued violations of human rights.”
 
That is far, far from sufficient. But the United States and its allies in Europe and the Middle East can dramatically help themselves and help the Libyan people at the same time. The operation is relatively simple, it will spare many lives and it will set the stage for stability in the future.
 
The idea is simple – destroy the Libyan Air Force.
 
Without the air force, Gaddafi loses a key tool against his people. By acting to protect the population, getting on the right side of the Libyan revolution and definitively punishing Gaddafi, the United States would demonstrate the limits of Western tolerance for reckless, maniacal, murdering dictators.
 
The Libyan Air Force is made up of some French F-1 fighters; some Sukhois (old ones) and some old MiGs. There are some helicopter gunships that need to be smashed. It would be 20 minutes work for the U.S. Air Force or, better yet, for a combined NATO force. 
 
Is it our responsibility?
 
Yes it is, because we (collectively NATO, but each NATO country in its own way) have been coddling this crazy man for the last eight years on the assumption that handing over his nuclear program in 2003 when he thought he was next on President Bush’s “hit list” meant he had miraculously reformed and joined the ranks of civilized rulers. We swept under the rug Gaddafi’s many crimes, especially his role in ordering the destruction of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. The British, in the scummiest way imaginable, helped arrange for the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the operative killer on “mercy grounds,” that also paved the way for lucrative contracts for British companies.  
 
For the President to make a speech and consider an indictment in the International Criminal Court is itself criminal in the fact of the ongoing massacre of the Libyan people.
 
Gaddafi is a murderer and he has now set out against his own people using weapons that have no place against civilians. We have the simple ability to stop him and we could get it done in a day.

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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.  She may be contacted at [email protected]

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