Precision and Purpose: Airpower in the Libyan Civil War

By Gregory Alegi; Christian F. Anrig et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
Victory Through (Not By) Airpower

Karl P. Mueller


Introduction

Three years after the end of Operation Unified Protector, it is still too early to have a sense of finality when drawing conclusions about the campaign. Yet the process of trying to capture its lessons is best begun when events are still fresh in the memory of participants, which is very much what this volume has been about.1

Many of the preceding chapters discuss conclusions and implications regarding the intervention and the air campaign in Libya that have been identified either by the authors themselves or by the nations or air forces they examine, and this chapter will not seek to summarize them. Instead, it focuses on two main themes. The first is assessing what the air campaign in Libya did and did not accomplish, and why. The second is considering a number of overarching lessons to draw from the operation, focusing on two areas about which this case is particularly instructive: coalition operations, and the employment of airpower in situations like the Libyan intervention, where an aircentric campaign is conducted to cooperate with indigenous ground forces with few or no coalition “boots on the ground.” We refer to this as a strategy of “aerial intervention,” and the final sections of this chapter address the questions of how the United States and its allies can better prepare for future operations of this sort and whether one should regard the aerial intervention in Libya as an anomaly or as a potential model to emulate in future conflicts.


What Was Achieved?

No sensible observer would claim to know with certainty what the coming years hold for Libya so soon after the fall of the Qaddafi regime and the end of Operation Unified Protector. Consequently, it is impossible to predict without hedging whether the NATO-led coalition intervention in the Libyan civil war will appear in the fullness of

1 This is also the motivation for a number of official “lessons learned” efforts among the armed forces and organizations that carried out the operation. Few of these have yet been officially released, and many are classified.

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