Remember this administration is now being run by mostly Clinton people. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is a Clinton vet, as is the Chief of Staff, and Hillary Clinton is the ultimate Clinton veteran. And the Clinton policy is when you’re sinking in the polls, shoot off some cruise missiles. Drone strikes regularly nail, or reportedly nail, an occasional Al Qaeda operative, but this is going to take something bigger.
The obstacle here is Obama. Obama wanted to try Osama in a civilian court. He isn’t that open to shooting up Libya. Instead he expects the Libyan authorities to conduct a trial. The Libyan authorities have trouble keeping order. Expecting them to conduct a trial when their own system is rotten with Jihadists is a joke and will not impress any Americans.
Like the Bin Laden raid, this is a choice between Obama’s electability and his ideology. He let the Bin Laden raid go forward, sacrificing ideology to electability, but trying to redeem it by believing that Bin Laden would be captured alive and he would be able to use him to force civilian trials for terrorists and the end of the War on Terror. Instead the Navy SEALS killed Osama, giving Obama a political victory, but not an ideological victory.
In Libya, Obama will want to come out with an ideological victory, but that’s hard to do when the objective will be to carry out a few days of raids on terrorist camps. The amount of leaks on this already means the terrorists probably won’t be there by then, which will turn it into a perfect replica of Clinton’s own attacks on terrorist compounds.
“These targets are believed to be located throughout Libya,” one U.S. intelligence officer told The Daily Beast. Another senior U.S. defense official acknowledged that some of the early intelligence could lose its value if there is too much delay. But this official also said there were risks in acting too quickly. “There is always the risk of flight in a situation like this,” this official said. “But it’s probably worth doing right and waiting a bit and trying to get more intel on these guys. You have to worry about relationships. If you do the wrong thing, the ramifications could be serious.” The U.S. intelligence officer said the information on the 10 suspects was “good enough to authorize action if this was Pakistan or Afghanistan.”
Which means that again, the War on Terror takes second billing to the same old Hearts and Minds garbage. But the practical reason for delaying the attack is to capitalize on the poll leaps that it can provide.
Three U.S. officials tell The Daily Beast that the U.S. military has the special-operations forces and other assets in place to begin going after individuals in Libya. The Naval Air Station in Sigonella, Italy, flies surveillance drones and other aircraft that are capable of reaching Libya in a few hours. There is also something known as a joint special-operations task force that operates under the authority of U.S. Africa Command, which two of these officials say have capabilities to begin kill or capture missions in Libya.
“At this point, the capabilities are in place,” one U.S. intelligence officer said. “The holdup is in Washington.”
My guess is that we are going to see some precision raids using special forces, a bunch of drone strikes and a small bombing campaign on training camps for show.