The Obama administration has ordered military reinforcements to Libya following the attack on the US consulate building this week, but the truth is drones had never left Libya’s skies and US Marines have been carrying out missions on the ground since the end of NATO’s war there last year.
The US suspects al-Qaeda affiliates were involved in starting the attack on the US consulate in Libya, which killed the American ambassador and three others, and has not only started an FBI investigation into the incident, but has ordered more drones to surveil Libya, as well as up to 50 additional US Marines and US warships equipped with Tomahawk missiles off the northern coast.
But the Defense Department told Wired‘s Danger Room that the drones never left, despite the fact that the NATO air war in Libya came to an end almost a year ago.
“Yes, we have been flying CAPs [combat air patrols] since the war ended,” said Army Lt. Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. These have apparently been done for surveillance purposes with the consent of the new Libyan government.
Similarly, the 50 additional US Marines being sent to Libya won’t exactly be new. One of the four Americans killed in this week’s consulate attack told ABC News last month he was working with the State Department on an intelligence mission to find some of the hoards of weapons strewn about the country following the collapse of Muammar Gadhafi’s regime.
The late economist Milton Friedman was famous for saying that there is nothing so permanent as a government temporary program. He was referring to domestic policies and bureaucracies, but the same principle applies here. When the US government engages in military action abroad, the tendency is for such military engagements to remain open-ended, in keeping with America’s long history of spreading its military across the entire globe.