I’ve noticed that some people really don’t want to call what’s happening in Libya a war, but merely the enforcement of a UN-approved no-fly zone, as if antiseptic actions like that don’t carry the same dangers or costs. Well, enforcement action or police action or whatever you want to call it, American troops remain in harm’s way, as today’s incident shows. You can’t scrub the war out of war.
An American F-15E fighter jet crashed in Libya overnight and one crew member has been recovered while the other is “in the process of recovery,” according to a spokesman for the American military’s Africa Command and a British reporter who saw the wreckage.
The crash was likely caused by mechanical failure and not hostile fire, the spokesman, Vince Crawley, told Reuters. Details of the incident remained sparse. The crash was the first known setback for the international coalition attacking Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces in three days of strikes authorized by the United Nations Security Council.
I’m willing to accept that mechanical failure was to blame. I’m no longer willing to accept the pleadings of those who want to defend this action that it’s not technically a war. This may have happened in a training exercise in the same place over the Mediterrenean, but we know that it happens during a war.
Fortunately, the plane went down near Benghazi, the rebel stronghold, and the crew is believed safe. But that’s one $30 million F-15 you can add to the total cost of the war, which has been adding up:
The first day of Operation Odyssey Dawn had a price tag that was well over $100 million for the U.S. in missiles alone. And the U.S. military, which remains in the lead now in its third day, has pumped millions more into air- and sea-launched strikes targeting air-defense sites and ground-force positions along Libya’s coastline.
The ultimate total that the United States spends will hinge on the length and scope of the strikes as well as on the contributions of its coalition allies. But Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said on Monday that the U.S. costs could “easily pass the $1 billion mark on this operation, regardless of how well things go.”
The Pentagon has the money in its budget to cover unexpected contingencies and can also use fourth-quarter dollars to cover the costs of operations now. “They’re very used to doing this operation where they borrow from Peter to pay Paul,” said Gordon Adams, who served as the Office of Management and Budget’s associate director for national security during the Clinton administration.
However, there comes a point when there simply isn’t enough cash to pay for everything. The White House said on Monday it was not prepared to request emergency funding yet, but former Pentagon comptroller Dov Zakheim estimated that the Defense Department would need to send a request for supplemental funding to Capitol Hill if the U.S. military’s share of Libya operations expenses tops $1 billion.
Administration officials insist that there’s no plan for a supplemental war funding request, but I don’t see how they avoid it. Especially if this lasts weeks.
They’d like to see the war come to an end.
UPDATE: Photo of the downed plane and story by the Telegraph (UK) available here.