Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Short Takes re: Libya War

Über-Realist Stephen Walt posts a comment by Mark Sheetz: "President Obama's handling of the Libyan crisis could have been worse, but not much worse." (Has the U.S. forgotten how to pass the buck? Foreign Policy 03/23/2011)

Sheetz also observes that Bernard Henry Lévy "is a public intellectual and another vain French rooster strutting around looking for glory. Ever the opportunist, Levy found the rebels in Benghazi and hooked them up with Sarkozy ..." He thinks Obama basically got conned into effectively taking the lead responsibility of something France and Britain wanted to do. Sheetz also raises an under-appreciated problem:

In accepting the Nobel prize, President Obama declared that military force was justified on humanitarian grounds and that the defense of human rights was in the national interest. Now he has set the precedent of waging war for third tier interests beyond the narrow scope of national security. In so doing, he has compromised the nation's security interest in non-proliferation. The key lesson that states like Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia will draw from the military intervention in Libya is to keep a nuclear development program if you have one and go get one if you do not. One has to believe that Qaddafi is now tormenting himself at night with the question: "Why did I ever agree to give up my WMD programs? [my emphasis]
Jonathan Schwarz takes up that issue in The Lesson the U.S. Is Teaching the World in Libya A Tiny Revolution 03/21/2011. War supporter David Rothkopf in the last paragraphs of The fog of war at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Foreign Policy 03/21/2011 points to another danger of the diplomacy of the Libya War to nuclear nonproliferation.

I can't say I've been scouring major media for every report on the Libya War. But this piece from Stars and Stripes was the most informative I've yet come across on the costs of the days-old Libya War, Cost of Libya campaign runs counter to belt-tightening plans by Chris Carroll 03/22/2011..


It cites this report from 03/09/2011 from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Selected Options and Costs for a No-Fly Zone over Libya by Todd Harrison and Zack Cooper.

Jake Tapper responds to White House hype about a reduced US role in the Libya War soon (President Obama Redefines the Term "Exit Strategy" ABC News 03/23/2011):

In an interview with Univision Tuesday, President Obama re-defined the term "exit strategy," and said our exit strategy in Libya would begin this week.

"The exit strategy will be executed this week," President Obama said, "in the sense that we will be pulling back from our much more active efforts to shape the environment. We will still be in a support role. We will be supplying jamming, intelligence and other assets unique to us."

Planes in the air? Ships in the Mediterranean? Intelligence being provided? Doesn’t sound like an exit strategy at all.

... From the beginning of this suddenly-announced military campaign, the White House has been making great efforts to under-sell the US role and emphasize the participation of European allies and Arab partners. Even those Arab partners like the UAE that ultimately didn’t contribute military assets as White House officials say they had been led to believe.

Last week the President said "the United States will contribute our unique capabilities at the front end of the mission to protect Libyan civilians, and enable the enforcement of a no-fly zone that will be led by our international partners."
Turkey has been raising a stink over the Libya War and NATO's role in it, as reported in Turkey wants Libya mission under United Nations umbrella Today's Zaman 03/23/2011.

This portrait of French President Nicholas Sarkozy by Arthur Goldhammer, De Gaulle, He Ain't Foreign Policy 03/22/2011, indicates that he has a very different attitude toward crisis than Barack Obama:

Sarkozy's idea of grandeur differs from de Gaulle's or Mitterrand's, however. The two former presidents saw themselves as students of history, men with long views of the national interest. Sarkozy is a creature of the moment who has always lived by the daily news cycle. Risk quickens his pulse and whets his appetite. He first came to prominence as mayor of the Paris suburb of Neuilly, when a madman with a bomb held a preschool classroom hostage. Sarkozy entered the room, talked the bomber into surrendering, and emerged to waiting cameras with a child in his arms. Crisis is his element.
Oh, and about the US taking a reduced role in the war?

... Gaullist grandeur may prove elusive if the fighting in the desert fails to go as planned. To be sure, French planes were the first to bomb targets around Benghazi, even before the U.S. cruise missile strikes on air defense sites. But the reality is that the French and British, who are supposed to bear the brunt of the action, do not have the "force projection" capabilities of the United States. The engagement has already gone well beyond enforcement of a no-fly zone to include action against Libyan armor and artillery. The poorly trained rebels may need a good deal more close support, unless the intervention persuades Qaddafi's mercenaries that the risks of fighting on now outweigh the benefits. But even if the mercenaries quit, loyalist Libyan troops would remain in the field, and the rebels' ability to defeat them even with air support remains to be demonstrated. Finally, even if Qaddafi is toppled, Libya's future will be determined by what unfolds in the aftermath, and France will have to contend with other interested parties for influence over that process. In short, France's intervention may serve to underscore the limits of the French global reach, even in a region where it was once a dominant player. [my emphasis]
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