From Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, the New York Times: The United States military has spent just $1.1 billion in Libya, and in the words of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., “didn’t lose a single life.” He added that “this is more of the prescription for how to deal with the world as we go forward than it has been in the past.”
Libya proved that the leaders of some medium-size powers can be overthrown from a distance, without putting American boots on the ground, by using weapons fired from sea and air with the heaviest load carried by partner nations — in the case of Libya, European allies and even some Arab states. . . .
Senior military officials noted that in Libya, NATO missions were under way just 10 days after the alliance decided to move forward — compared to the 11 months it took to move from a United Nations resolution to the first airplane enforcing a no-fly zone over Kosovo in the 1990s.
“NATO works, and it can work at speed,” said Adm. James G. Stavridis, the alliance’s senior military commander. “The difference is that 10 years of integrated operations in Afghanistan have created an alliance that can move quickly, can move with alacrity — not without controversy, not without some nations moving faster and some moving slower and some saying we are not going to participate in this operation.”
But American and alliance officials acknowledged that a stinging critique, issued this summer by Robert M. Gates, the defense secretary at the time, still echoed. He warned of a two-tiered alliance in which some allies could fight, and some really could not. . . .
The shortages in the proper equipment, military skills and political commitment that Mr. Gates underscored are, indeed, considered a warning to the alliance. NATO does not have a roster of experienced officers to do its own targeting — the essence of successful air warfare. Only the United States, Britain and France have targeteers up to modern standards.
With no troops on the ground to help spot targets, NATO planners and pilots had to improvise with other reconnaissance equipment and informants on the ground. Still, commanders acknowledged that they often could not pinpoint the shifting battle lines in hotly contested cities. . . .
For command bunkers in Tripoli as well as Colonel Qaddafi’s final hide-out in Surt, NATO increasingly relied on American Predator drones that fly high overhead for hundreds of hours, chronicling the “pattern of life” below until allied commanders feel confident the site is a legitimate target. On Thursday, for instance, a Predator helped to guide a French warplane to attack Colonel Qaddafi’s convoy as it tried to flee Surt. (NATO said Thursday it did not know Colonel Qaddafi was in the convoy then.) . . .
For the record, non-American alliance and partner aircraft flew 75 percent of all sorties of the war. And non-American alliance warships carried out 100 percent of the missions to enforce the arms embargo at sea. (photo: AP)