Moammar Gadhafi’s time has long since come and gone as we rapidly approach the anniversary of the bombing of the Berlin discotheque on April 5, 1986. My family and I had left Germany at the end of my first tour there less than two years previously. I still well remember while in Germany having to check under my car every day for weeks, when terrorists were targeting soldiers with bombs in fire extinguishers. I remember a rocket-propelled grenade hitting the car of the commanding general of U.S Army Europe while he and his wife were riding in it. The 1983 suicide bomb destruction of the expeditionary force barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed 222 Marines, 18 sailors, and three Army soldiers was also still on my mind. The Army soldiers had been radar crewmen and my last duty assignment in Germany on that tour was to command a target acquisition battery of radars and sound and flash ranging sections.
Terrorism was on my mind a long time ago. When the intelligence community determined that Gadhafi was behind the attack at the disco that killed Americans, it made sense to me to strike. President Reagan did that. That seemed to get Gadhafi’s attention, but it did not eliminate him. Now he’s still around and causing trouble again.
Gadhafi needs to go. Before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, his people had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group. Gadhafi has been a thorn in the side of the United States and the rest of the world for years. I suppose he was quiet for a long time because the 1986 air strike killed one child and probably put a good shaking on his tent, based on the bomb strike film I saw. A lot of people would be better off today if those target site crosshairs had been on that tent instead of somewhere else. Gadhafi is a bully and anyone who has been terrorized on a playground knows that the only way to stop a bully is to convince him that pain is on the way. Until the 1986 strike, no country had done that.
Unfortunately, that was 25 years ago and the threat of pain has become a distant memory. Gadhafi has hammered the rebels in his country and the response by the rest of the world was late in coming. However, we and several of our allies are in the fight now, if in a limited way (the White House description of our operation as a kinetic military action seems to me to be a pathetic attempt to obscure or downplay killing people).
I’m glad but concerned that we are in more of a support role than in recent conflicts. Clearly we have enough to do with ongoing operations and other crises. It’s good that the French, British and others have stepped up and gone after Gadhafi’s troops before they could annihilate the rebels. I just hope it’s not too late, and not being in charge means we also lose some ability to determine success or failure.
However, it’s good to see other countries willing to take on the mission against an evil tyrant. On a side note, I sincerely hope that the American entertainers who profited by performing for the Gadhafi family and being paid money robbed from the Libyan people also feel some measure of shame for their mercenary actions. I suppose that’s old news by now, but it still rankles me.
The open-ended nature of our current operation is worrisome, as is the difficulty in sorting out the identity and ideology of the Libyan rebels. Handing off the mission lead to NATO is a poor attempt to pass blame for success and failure to some organization other than ourselves. Without us, there would be no NATO. Nonetheless, Gadhafi’s an evil man who has purposefully killed Americans and not been sufficiently punished for it. Lately he’s been killing his own citizens, and they’re now tired of him. I hope that the international support remains firm and that the no-fly zone will stay in effect. Maybe we’ll get lucky and someone will rid us all of the old colonel sooner rather than later, but relying on luck is risky. Wherever Gadhafi is I hope his country manages to rid itself and the rest of the world of him soon.