Friday, March 25, 2011

The "logic" of escalation in the Libya War

This discussion from the 03/24/2011 PBS Newshour featured retired Gen. Jack Keane, currently considered a guru of counterinsurgency, gives an idea of the conventional military and political dynamic pressing for an expanded US role in the Libyan civil war.



I don't agree with Keane's obvious advocacy of an escalating US role in the Libya War. But he does have a point. He puts it in a more propagandistic way, but the US-French-British alliance has committed itself in reality to supporting the rebel forces. And it doesn't appear that the military policy currently being applied is in line with the obvious goal of regime change. I don't want to see escalation. I would prefer to have the US only involved in actual humanitarian efforts, i.e., providing food and medical assistance and aid to refugees, not "humanitarian war."


In the context of the air-ground teams Keane is advocating, we should remember that those Special Forces teams in the early weeks of the Afghanistan War were not just coordinating air strikes but giving military direction, sometimes detailed tactical direction in battle, to the Northern Alliance forces. And despite the swift change in regime in Kabul, the Afghanistan War continues now nearly 10 years later with no end in sight.

But how many times have we heard the dreary argument that Keane makes: " American prestige is clearly on the line in terms of Gadhafi. If he stays in power, and we have some kind of a stalemate, that's a totally unsatisfactory outcome."

NATO's agreement to direct the no-fly zone is turning out to be less than the US wanted it to appear. NATO has formally committed only to enforcing the no-fly zone against actual violations of it. The NATO mission does not yet formally include attacks on the Libyan regime's ground forces. Paul Ames reports in Nato to take charge of no-fly zone – but US role is unclear The Independent 03/25/2011:

Nato reached a partial agreement late last night to take over the command of the no-fly zone over Libya, but deep divisions within the alliance mean the US will have to remain in charge of air strikes on Colonel Gaddafi's ground forces.

The decision to run parallel campaigns, with Nato's military headquarters planning missions against Gaddafi's air forces, but a separate US chain of command dealing with ground attacks, will set alarm bells ringing among military planners, given the scope for confusion and duplication it brings.
Intensive negotiations among the players is continuing. But Turkey's resistance to NATO's taking part in destroying Libyan ground forces is a major obstacle as of the latest reports I'm seeing.

Ames also reports:

... In an effort to minimise the confusion, US Admiral Samuel J Locklear is expected to play a key operational role in both command chains.

Since air operations began on Saturday, the mission has been co-ordinated by US headquarters in Germany and Italy, but from the beginning the Obama administration had made clear they wanted the Europeans to take over after the first phase of the operation.
Diplomacy lives on duplicity, I realize. But even so, I still don't quite understand why the Obama Administration is putting such heavy emphasis on the NATO role as though it were very distinct from the US role. Who is going to be fooled by this?

This report from the English-landguage Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman, Wary of France, Turkey wants NATO in charge in Libya 03/25/2011, has more information on Turkey's position:

Turkey has reiterated its skepticism of French motives in the Libya operation and insisted that NATO should have sole control over all military actions in the North African country, dismissing French calls for an international committee led by France and Britain to be politically in charge. ...

In a swipe at France, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the same people who were reluctant to let Turkey into the European Union now spoke in terms of “crusades” regarding Libya, chiding the West for its attitude towards nations to the South and East. “I wish that those who only see oil, gold mines and underground treasures when they look in that direction would see the region through glasses of conscience from now on,” he told a conference in İstanbul. ...

Meanwhile, the first diplomatic contact between Turkey and France took place on Thursday [March 24], when French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe phoned Davutoğlu. The two sides repeated their known positions, but agreed to stay in touch, officials said of the conversation. France opposes NATO control, saying that US-led NATO's involvement would undermine support for the anti-Gaddafi operation in the Arab world. Davutoğlu, during a telephone conversation with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Wednesday rejected the French argument, putting the United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister on the phone to explain that this is not how the Arabs would feel about NATO leading the operation.
Blood and Oil? German Minister Hints at Libya Mission Hypocrisy Der Spiegel International 03/25/2011 reports on the German government's cautious position, not wanting German forces to be directly involved in the Libya War.

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