David Cameron needs to up the tempo against Gaddafi
The PM should send more planes and get the Libyan campaign over with - quickly
It is difficult to understand why the removal of Colonel Gaddafi is more urgent or more morally pressing than the removal of, say, President Assad, President Mugabe or the King of Bahrain. But it is what our political leadership have decided to do.
The question now is not whether our intervention was wise or moral but how best we can achieve our aims.
Attacking Libya to prevent a massacre of those who rose up against Gaddafi was very much David Cameron's idea. But it would not be fair to say that the Libyan campaign is being lost on the playing fields of Eton. It is at risk of being lost by poor military advice from the generals and air marshals and a lack of zeal and energy in prosecuting the campaign.
The campaign was always the wrong way round. Military campaigns of this type are not like opera or sex - the climax needs to come at the opening. George W Bush christened it 'Shock and Awe'.
The point of this kind of bombing is not so much to blow the enemy to kingdom come but to confuse and frighten him to such an extent that he cannot function.
It's more subtle than just battering him so hard that he is tempted to surrender; it's designed to persuade him that despite his own martial qualities and commitment to the cause, somehow fighting on becomes pointless. Even a last stand would be meaningless. The end is pre-ordained. It is a particularly powerful form of warfare against enemies with a strong belief in fate.
But to get your adversary to this point requires a relentless, ruthless will to win which our military leaders seem to have lost. The mistake the military have made is to see aggression and proportionality as mutually exclusive.
A good example of this mind-set came early in the campaign when the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, complimented an RAF crew for returning from a mission without having dropped their bombs because of doubts over the target.
The more usual procedure for an RAF bomber unable to attack a primary target because of risk to innocent civilians would be to divert to a secondary, or tertiary target a fuel dump or a radar installation and there are plenty of those around. The attack must be pressed home every time.
The RAF's sortie rate has been leisurely to say the least. The social life in the hotels around the Nato airfield at Gioia dell Colle (near Bari on the heel of Italy) appears vibrant. In May, two RAF aircrew were sent home for drinking too much the night before a mission over Libya.
Complaints about a lack of 'airframes' ring hollow. The spectacular ceremonial fly-pasts for the recent royal wedding and the Queen's Birthday Parade both contained combat aircraft that could have been allocated to operations if the situation was really that tight.
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur 'Bomber' Harris would have had a fit.
The current US Secretary for Defence, Robert Gates, is certainly not impressed, complaining in Brussels last Friday of the "spectacle of an air operations centre designed to handle more than 300 sorties a day struggling to launch about 150".
It is not yet too late. David Cameron must both impress his personality on his military commanders and decide how far he is prepared to go - now. Give orders to up the sortie rate. If Apaches are the answer, send more.
Above all he must decide whether he is prepared to put 'boots on the ground' - not a formal military force but increased numbers of 'advisers' and 'contractors'. The time to do it is now.
Without some kind of military pressure from the ground, which the rebels seem incapable of, Gaddafi may well hang on.
His son Muhammad has successfully ordered several hundred tickets for members of the regime to attend the London Olympics next year. And Col Gaddafi himself looked confident enough last week, calmly playing chess with the head of the World Chess Federation.
Depressingly, despite more than 12 weeks of Nato bombing, both the lighting and air-conditioning in his quarters were clearly in good working order. ·
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