[Viewpoint] A lesson from Qaddafi’s demise

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[Viewpoint] A lesson from Qaddafi’s demise

“Don’t shoot,” cried ousted Libyan strongman Muammar el-Qaddafi, begging for his life at gunpoint to a mob of rebels. The history of mankind is full of such grisly ends of once-mighty leaders. It is just that today modern-day Internet and communication technology can capture, post and circulate the disgraceful and derogatory last moments of despotic rulers. Qaddafi’s demise underscored the effectiveness of the military strategic paralysis theory in winning warfare.

The strategy of locating, attacking and ultimately paralyzing the centers of gravity in an enemy nation has been a popular military theory throughout history. American military theorist John Warden defined the modern-day war strategy by employing state-of-the-art air and naval weaponry. He assessed the enemy as a system and drew five concentric circles, with field forces at the outermost, followed by population, infrastructure, organic essentials and leadership at the heart.

He said identification of the core leadership center was the critical first step in planning and conducting military operations. Destruction of the central leadership can effectively end a war in a short period with fewer casualties.

A paralysis strategy aims to incapacitate an enemy state from inside out and make resistance impossible for the enemy command. Even after NATO and rebel forces took over the field forces, population and infrastructure, a complete triumph could not be declared because they failed to fell the central leadership - Qaddafi.

The delay cost more losses on both sides of the war. Libyan rebel and international forces concluded that they had to hunt down and eliminate Qaddafi in order to end the war and build new leadership for Libya.

In conducting the campaign to cripple the sources of strength, the allied forces maximized American precision fighters, NATO air power, Libyan rebel forces’ troops and the Libyan people’s rage to full effect. Predator drones intercepted and tracked down the movements of Qaddafi’s inner circle and joined the air strike.

Qaddafi’s convoy was first bombed by a Predator drone and then by NATO jets, and the ousted dictator was pulled out of his hiding place to be finally killed by Libyan rebel forces. The enraged Libyan people posted and circulated scenes of his last moments and their exhilarated response in video clips to usher Libyan mood in one direction toward a consensus.

The role of American Predator drones has highlighted modern-day warfare capabilities. Defense experts around the world have been awed by the accuracy and capacity of the Predator drones, controlled via satellite from a base outside Las Vegas.

Had allied forces concentrated more on eliminating Qaddafi, the Libyan mission would have been accomplished quicker. Future warfare will likely be played out in the form of strategic paralysis rather than in the form of traditional prolonged battles like the Korean War.

The Libyan operation defined the distinctive role of air, ground and international forces. We must study the new strategy in our future defense and war simulation strategies. We must pay more attention to the capabilities of controlled drones that cost 5.1 billion won ($4.6 million) each.

Qaddafi’s humiliating death - as opposed to potential uncertainties had he been tried in a court - has decisively ended a war and placed Libya on a new path. There is an important military lesson to be learned from Qaddafi’s end.

*The writer is the director of the Center for Security and Strategy at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses.

By Baek Seung-joo
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