The Best Defense

A rare disagreement with Ignatius, on the deployment of armed Predators to Libya

Regular readers of this blog know that I have a lot of admiration for the work of David Ignatius -- both his columns and his novels.

So I was surprised to see his denunciation on the deployment of armed drones to Libya. He thinks that in the Arab world they have become a symbol of targeted assassination.

Perhaps so. But deploying them in Libya is a sign that the U.S. is not bugging out on its NATO allies nor on the Libyan rebels, who are Arabs.

Frankly, I am surprised it has taken the U.S. government so long to get the Predators over Libya. They should have been there on Day One. This is exactly the type of move that makes sense here: Putting U.S. assets into the operation in support of an intervention led by other members of NATO, but supported by the United States, especially in areas where the U.S. can offer unique capabilities, especially when U.S. aircrews are not endangered by the deployment.

In this case, I can see many more uses for drones than the assassination of Col. Qaddafi, which Ignatius figures is their likely use. We have seen Qaddafi's forces adapting to the presence of NATO aircraft overhead-for example, moving from tanks to pickup trucks. So closer observation is needed before striking. That requires getting down low, but that can sucker a NATO aircraft into getting hit. Drones are a good answer to this tactical problem. Likewise, they can get down under clouds in bad weather, taking away from Qaddafi's goods the advantage of attacking under overcasts. Plus, drones can "loiter" over a target, which helps both with observation and deterrence. They even can harass the foe-on exercises at the Army's National Training Center, I once was with an "opposition force" ambush team that crouched down warily when they head that lawnmower-like buzzing of a drone somewhere overhead. They hated that noise.

My question is, What took so long to make this move? I worry that the national security establishment -- the Pentagon, the CIA and even State Department-are slow-rolling this mission a bit, foot-dragging by "defining terms" and "seeking legal clarification." I know the military doesn't much like the Libyan intervention, and worries about mission creep. But they are supposed to follow legal orders. Part of this slow response probably has been President Obama's fault, because he was very cautious to act and then when he did, he emphasized U.S. minimalism. That sort of nuance runs contrary to U.S. national security culture, and so may have thrown some sand in the gears. Still, fellas, he is the president, so let's be careful about shirking. If your conscience can't take it, you know where the door is. 

Meanwhile, here's an interesting take on Libya from retired Marine Col. Gary Anderson, who I think has appeared in all three of my non-fiction books.  

And here is Sebastian Junger's meditation on the loss of his friend and Restrepo collaborator Tim Hetherington in Libya. Worth reading

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The Best Defense

Rebecca's War Dog of the Week: UK paratroops trying to bring home Phos

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense chief canine correspondent

This week a British paper proudly called the Airdrie & Coatridge Advertiser reported that Sergeant Garry McMahon, a soldier from Airdrie with 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment has been joined by the rest of his platoon on a final mission before they return home from Afghanistan: Bringing home with them the stray dog they adopted.

Phos, now a scrappy looking white and gray mutt, was saved along the other five puppies from an untimely death by a group of quick-thinking soldiers pulled a fast maneuver -- "[switching] the box with the puppies in it and [sending] the six dogs out to different check points as pets."

Phos has been with Sgt. McMahon and his fellow soldiers since he was six weeks old and the dog has "been a part of our team ever since," accompanying the unit on patrols or "walkies." The unit's preparation to depart Afghanistan was complicated by the fact that the unit coming in has a strict no-pet policy. But the soldiers have grown "very fond of Phos," and they have no intention of leaving their beloved pup behind.

McMahon and company is calling on the public for help and has set up a donation site to try and raise the £5,000 required to cover the cost of Phos' trip home. Last time I checked they'd managed to bring in £2,479.00. Here's the soldiers' note:

"[W]e are [members] of the parachute regiment in a small checkpoint in afghanistan our dog phos was part of a litter of pups born in the main camp whose mother went missing not long after they were born. ...[T]hat was in december so weve brought him up from an early age in not the best conditions,weve all grown very attached to him (no matter how may pairs of socks go missing) now and dont want him to get left behind when we go home as the following unit have a no pet policy and we dont want to give him to the locals who will cut off his ears and tail and use him for fighting. we think he should get the chance to come back with us to a good home in the UK and apreciate the help anyone can give us."

A sad side note this week: There are many worthy and worthwhile tributes to photographer Chris Hondros who was killed in Libya alongside Tim Hetherington this week, some of them here on FP. Last year Chris, whose photos have appeared on this feature (and likely will again), shared a his own war-dog story with us. Here it is one more time for anyone who missed it. /