It might have been a pack of brave Libyans who captured Qaddafi on the ground today, but his demise was started by a single French jet. Details are sparse, but a Mirage 2000 stopped Gaddafi's getaway in its tracks.
Bloomberg reports that Gaddafi was looking to get the hell out of Sirte—his last remaining, tenuous stronghold, in an SUV—but was strafed to a halt by the 1978 Mirage's 30mm cannon. Once slowed, Gaddafi's convoy was swarmed by Libyan rebels, and, well, the rest we know. It's a fitting bookend to an air war that was pushed hard by the French, though the National Journal's Yochi Dreazen relays the Pentagon's boast of a Predator strike somewhere around Sirte at the same time—the latest in a string of drone attacks that's beat the number we executed in Afghanistan last year. Was the American missile aimed at Gaddafi? We don't know yet. We might never know.
But the consequence is clear: as the NYT and others have pointed out, the Libyan war was perhaps the most modern to date. Gaddafi's military hardware was destroyed from above, by weapons that his men likely never even saw before they were killed by them. Of course an immense amount of blood was splattered by rebels on the ground, fighting and improvising with little training, if any. But the decisive factor was death from above. Drones controlled half a world away, jet attacks, and cruise missiles. A warning shot from a shimmering French plane's about as fitting as an end to the war gets. [Bloomberg]