100 days as of Monday, and 4,700 strike sorties in, NATO officials are preaching “progress” on the war in Libya, but those claims are coming in very non-specific terms. Lots of buildings have been destroyed, many people killed, but very little territory has changed hands.
And indeed, what territory has changed hands during the NATO involvement has been incidental, with offensive and counter-offensive settling into an unsteady equilibrium shortly after the US, France and Britain began bombarding the nation. Since then, the bombing has joined with fighting along the frontier between the two factions as just one more permanent aspect of life in Libya at war.
If the war was, as NATO insisted when it began, about safeguarding civilians, it has failed miserably. NATO strikes have killed no small number of civilians themselves, and the bloody stalemate on the ground has continued unabated, with reports of both sides committing human rights violations.
Since then it has morphed into a war of regime change, and it is on this basis NATO claims “progress,” even though they also concede that there is no estimated date when the Gadhafi regime will fall. Still, they insist, the regime has been weakened.
Which has NATO playing for more time, trying to sell an open-ended war to a public that was never consulted in the first place, and has plenty of experience with wars that don’t seem to ever accomplish anything. Even the boundless enthusiasm of NATO’s leadership for such wars faces an uphill battle in convincing voters across its member nations, and with Italy already jumping ship, others may soon follow.