“Do you know they are flying around at 25,000 feet?” asks Sen. John McCain, incredulously…

NATO officials have told McCain they’re concerned that there are thousands of small anti-aircraft weapons known as MANPADS — Man-Portable Air Defense Systems — in Libya. McCain has asked whether any have been fired at NATO aircraft. The answer is no.

“The overriding fear of pilots and air crew being shot down and captured is dictating most of [NATO’s] actions,” McCain says. “When you go into war, into battle, you have to take risks. That is what war is all about. I knew that there were SAM missiles aimed at me when I was flying in Vietnam.”…

Beyond that, it’s a sobering fact that many NATO countries, even some of the big ones, are simply weak. They’ve been cutting their defense budgets for years as their welfare state commitments grew bigger and bigger. Now, they can’t mount much of a fight, even by the small-scale standards of the Libyan action. “No one will admit it, but both the British and the French are running out of precision-guided weapons,” says McCain. “They simply do not have the assets.”