Libya: What’s a Superpower To Do?

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Hard to imagine a more striking pair of stories to define Battleland’s mission than a pair this morning – one on the front page of the Washington Post, and the second on Page 1 of the New York Times. They’re flip sides of the same coin, and get to the heart of the debate I hope we can have here.

The Post‘s grim headline says it all:

NATO’s Bomb Supply Is Running Short

Doubts raised over whether U.S. can continue to stay out of Libyan air campaign

The piece, by the top-drawer reporting pair of Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, basically says that the best way to stop Muammar Gaddafi from slaughtering innocents inside his own country is to get large numbers of U.S. warplanes back into the fight. Our  allies, including key NATO members, it seems, lack the precision of U.S. firepower. Of course, the U.S. has plenty to share – why not just give the Europeans some? “Although the United States has significant stockpiles, its munitions do not fit on the British- and French-made planes that have flown the bulk of the missions,” the Post reports. And. These. Are. Our. Closest. Allies.

If such news galls you, better steer clear of C.J. Chivers’ chilling Times piece from the rebel-held Libyan city of Misurata:

Military forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi have been firing into residential neighborhoods in this embattled city with heavy weapons, including cluster bombs that have been banned by much of the world and ground-to-ground rockets, according to witnesses and survivors, as well as physical evidence. Both of these so-called indiscriminate weapons, which strike large areas with a dense succession of high-explosive munitions, by their nature cannot be fired precisely. When fired into populated areas, they place civilians at grave risk. The dangers were evident beside one of the impact craters on Friday, where eight people had been killed while standing in a bread line. Where a crowd had assembled for food, bits of human flesh had been blasted against a cinder-block wall.

OK. That’s where we are right now. That’s the hand we’ve been dealt. What, if anything, should the U.S. do?