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Deeper and deeper into Libya

Apache helicopters, Deeper and deeper, Libya, Way Helicopter
The deployment of Apache helicopters might hasten Gaddafi’s departure, but Britain is facing a long stay in the country, writes James Kirkup in Benghazi

Skimming fast and low over the ground, bristling with missiles and heavy with armour, the Army’s Apache AH64 attack helicopters are British might incarnate, a muscular show of power and self-assurance from a country that remains (just) in the global premier league of military players.

Yet their presence over western Libya this weekend is also a tacit sign of British failure, the failure of 11 weeks of aerial bombardment to remove Col Muammar Gaddafi from power.

Deploying the Apaches is final proof of something that all but the most partisan of RAF devotees have long conceded: you can start a war from 30,000 feet, but you can only win it on the ground. “Boots on the ground” may have been ruled out, but Britain’s military operation is undeniably moving closer to Libyan soil.
Ministers privately hope that the helicopters will provide the final, risky heave required for the Gaddafi regime to crumble, either persuading the dictator to quit and run, or persuading his henchmen, already said to be panicking, that they must remove him to save their own skins.

Even more fervently, they pray that Gaddafi’s forces do not manage the one lucky strike that brings down an Apache and summons up the ghost of America’s agonising “Black Hawk Down” experience in Somalia.

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