President Barack Obama (D) announced this afternoon that the United States has joined with several European allies in military action against the government of Libya. This action follows a March 17 United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force and establishing a ‘no-fly zone’ to protect Libyan citizens from ongoing slaughter by military forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Gadhafi publicly pledged to abide by the no-fly zone and implement a cease fire, but has not done so.
According to Obama’s brief address from his state visit in Brasilia, Brazil, the U.S. military’s “unique” capabilities will be used in the initial phases of the operation, code-named ‘Operation Odyssey Dawn.’ Ongoing enforcement of the Libyan no-fly zone will be performed by our European allies, including France and the United Kingdom, who are already engaged in fighter jet deployments over Libya.
The full military action began with over 100 U.S. and British cruise missiles launched from Navy vessels and targeting Libyan military positions. There had also been one skirmish earlier in the day where French fighters destroyed a Libyan military vehicle. It is unclear at this time if the U.S. will be providing any air support, but Obama has pledged that no U.S. ground troops will be deployed to Libya.
Libya has been embroiled in a bloody civil war that began after the governments of nearby Tunisia and Egypt were felled by popular uprisings. Gadhafi, who has been the self-styled ‘leader’ of Libya since 1969, responded with brutal military attacks on the civilian rebellion. After much dithering in the international community, the U.N. Security Council finally implemented a no-fly zone and authorized the use of force to protect Libyan citizens on March 17—more than a month after fighting began.