This morning, it was announced that an American F-15 had gone down in Libya. However, the Pentagon reported it was mechanical failure, not enemy fire — and the two crew were recovered safely by a V-22 Osprey.
Now, I’m a bit of a military buff, so I’m going to get a bit geeky here and extrapolate like hell from what little information is available.
The F-15 was originally a single-seat fighter. There are three variants that have a crew of two. The F-15B and F-15D are trainers, and therefore quite unlikely to be used in combat. But the F-15E is the “Strike Eagle” model, designed to fight its way through enemy defenses, attack targets on the ground, and then fight its way back out.
So, in all likelihood, it was a Strike Eagle that went down. But what does that mean?
It means that we sent a plane into Libyan airspace with the purpose of attacking ground targets. More specifically, with the purpose of destroying vehicles, buildings, and killing people.
That, folks, is an act of war.
So far, Obama’s had a relatively easy war. All the casualties have been on the Libyan side.
That came very, very close to changing last night. Two American pilots went down in a hostile nation. One managed to escape, but another was taken by Libyans — fortunately, rebels who were glad to see an American and helped him get rescued as well.
Rescued by a V-22 Osprey, which was crewed by four Marines. Which put four more American lives at risk.
No Americans have been killed thus far, and no one apparently injured.
But it could happen. Because that’s what happens in war. And make no mistake — we are at war.
So far, President Obama has been insulated from that particular burden of office. Yes, came into office with two wars going on, in Afghanistan and Iraq, but he was distanced from them — he “inherited Bush’s wars.” This time, though, it’s all on him — and ordering American service members into harm’s way, knowing that you very well might be ordering them to their deaths, is one of the most stressful things a president does.
Never in his life has President Obama faced anything even close to this level of responsibility. Until his election, he’d never held any kind of ledership or executive position, let alone where he holds the literal power of life and death over so many.
For all our sakes, I hope he finds the strength to succeed in this. I just wish I had more reason to be optimistic.