Dropping a 500-Pound Bomb Is Not an Air Strike: United States Support for NATO in Libya Still Includes Airplanes Attacking Things

The Department of Defense today let it be known that the Libyan war still features

United States planes

dropping bombs, more than two weeks after President Obama announced that “our allies and partners” would be in charge of enforcing the Libyan no-fly zone, with American forces in ”

a supporting role


After the official changeover to NATO command, the Obama administration said that the United States had stopped launching airstrikes as of April 4. The New York Times reported on what’s happened since:

Colonel Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said such operations – known as Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses, or SEADs – were defensive by nature and were not considered “strikes” by the military.

Eleven U.S. aircraft have flown 97 sorties in Libya since April 4 and fired on air defense targets three times, the Pentagon said. The aircraft involved are six F-16 fighter jets and five EA-18 Growler electronic warfare planes, the Pentagon said.


Los Angeles Times

provided more detail on what these non-strikes involved:

A senior military official said that three attacks were launched last week against Libyan surface-to-air missile sites. U.S. F-16 and EA-18G fighters carried out the strikes with 500-pound bombs.

(Oops! They wrote “strikes.”)

The L.A. Times also had an oddly nonspecific interpretation of the military-political dimension of the news:

[T]he Pentagon appeared eager Wednesday to counter the impression that the U.S. had withdrawn completely from an active role in the air campaign.

What does eagerness look like, at the Pentagon? Besides large explosive devices dropping from planes. And why is the military having a public-relations contest against the White House—which commands the military—about how active it is perceived to be in our undeclared war in Libya? Does the Pentagon want to drop more bombs than it’s dropping, or does it just want credit for the bombs it has dropped?