A lot of the news reporting on military options in Libya has been over no-fly zones, or NFZ if you want to use the abbreviation. But the resolution the UN Security Council passed on Thursday authorizes much broader military action. As Robert Marquand explains in Libya declares cease-fire as EU leaders plan military strikesChristian Science Monitor 03/18/2011.
France, Britain, and Lebanon led the charge for a UN Security Council resolution passed Thursday evening with crucial backing from the US. Expected to authorize only a "no-fly" zone, the council instead moved to “Chapter Seven” status, the most robust option for intervention, which allows for protection of civilians and humanitarian aid using "all necessary measures."
My initial impression was that it was more an American than a European initiative. But the resolution itself authorizes war by "all necessary measures." This PBS Newshour report, done just before the resolution passed, gives an idea of the resolution's scope:
Miguel González reports for El País that Spain's social-democratic government under President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has decided to join in the military intervention: Zapatero: "La comunidad internacional no se va a dejar engañar por Gadafi" 18.03.2011. This seems to be a reckless move on his part, as well. Spain is already relatively heavily committed to the very unpopular Afghanistan War. They will be allowing the US to use military bases in Cádiz and Sevilla in running the air war against Libya. He did volunteer a commitment to go to his Parliament to ask for formal authorization, a "quaint" idea by current American standards, which he plans to do on Wednesday.
Germany's conservative government (Christian Democratic and Free Democratic coalition) abstained on the Security Council resolution. As Marquand reports:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been the most adamantly opposed to a "no-fly" zone. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé yesterday cancelled a meeting with Ms. Merkel to instead fly to New York as it became clear that new momentum for a broader Security Council resolution was in play.
Germany's Ambassador to the UN Peter Wittig expressed skepticism at the Security Council on Wednesday, saying the body should not move forward on the optimistic assumption that "quick results with few casualties will be achieved." Germany abstained from the vote Thursday night.
Libya has declared a cease-fire (Response to UN Resolution:Libya Declares Immediate CeasefireDer Spiegel English 18.03.2011), which means that the US and the other willing belligerents-to-be can still pull back from the brink. But it's hard to see how the momentum for war is likely to stop at this point. I certainly hope I'm wrong.
Severin Weiland and Roland Nelles in a pro-war column write about potential implications of Germany's opposition to the war in Berlin Lets Its Allies Go It AloneDer Spiegel English 18.03.2011:
And despite the Libyan regime's move on Friday afternoon to declare a cease-fire -- at least for now -- and inviting international observers into the country, Berlin's move could have lasting repercussions. Although Berlin has not blocked military action by abstaining, the German government has marginalized itself. It is effectively telling its allies: You will have to deal with this one alone -- we're not going to help you.
The German position, which had been agreed between Merkel and [Foreign Minister] Westerwelle, had been clear for days. As a concession to its allies, Berlin will now beef up its mission in Afghanistan. There is talk of Germany taking part in AWACS surveillance flights over the country, which would take pressure off Germany's allies and free up their aircraft for operations over Libya. ...
Until now, it has always been standard practice for Germany to support the most common position possible in the international community when it comes to crises, Rolf Mützenich, the foreign policy spokesman for the SPD, told the German news agency DPA. "That's why it was a mistake that Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle categorically ruled out the threat of a no-fly zone. By doing so, he unnecessarily tied our hands and our ability to negotiate."
SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel and Green Party co-floor leader Jürgen Trittin, on the other hand, initially supported the government's position. "I can understand the skepticism, and for that reason the abstention was the right move," Gabriel said on Friday. Military action against Gadhafi, he warned, also held the danger of escalating the situation. Anyone who goes into a country also needs to know when the intervention can come to an end, he added, noting that Germany's experience in Afghanistan had showed how difficult that can be to determine.
Trittin described the tighter sanctions imposed in the UN resolution as overdue. "We need to really shut off Gadhafi's oil tap," he said. Still, the Greens remain skeptical about a military intervention, he said.
This is a long report from Aljazeera English 03/18/2011:
Glenn Greenwald gives a good brief rundown on the Constitutional issue raised once again by the prospect of the US going to war without Congressional authorization: Obama on presidential war-making powersSalon 03/18/2011.
That means possible, imminent air strikes as well as an air exclusion zone. It means direct head-on combat with Libya's air force, if it chooses to fight. It means, potentially, western casualties, if pilots are shot down or bail out or are taken hostage. It could mean innocent civilian deaths as the EU's foreign policy chief Lady Ashton warned last week. And if things do not go well, it may mean escalation beyond all that is envisaged now. Who knows when it will stop. ...
The longer term impact of the intervention is immeasurable – but disaster is certainly one possible outcome. Like the first Gulf war, the involvement and support of Arab countries means the Libyan war will not be defined, except by hardline jihadis and al-Qaida, as another western assault on Muslim lands. But if the fighting is prolonged, if Gaddafi does not quit and run, if his more able sons take up his cause, if the intervention makes things worse not better for ordinary people (as in Iraq), if there is no clear-cut win but ongoing low level conflict and resistance (as in Afghanistan), then Arab opinion will turn against the westerners once more. The post-9/11 nightmare of the Pentagon's long war without end will reproduce on the shores of the Mediterranean.
But there is a reasonable prospect of success, too. If the rebels, rescued from annihilation, prove capable of creating a government able to take over the running of all of Libya, and not just the rebellious east, then Obama's gamble could pay off.
... the best hope here is that the onset of airstrikes quickly demoralizes the loyalist forces, tips the balance of resolve back toward the rebels, and maybe even convinces Qaddafi to blow town. This might happen, of course, but there are some reasons to be skeptical. Back in 1999, Madeleine Albright thought a few days of airstrikes would convince Slobodan Milosevic to capitulate in the Kosovo War, but the war actually dragged on weeks and he surrendered only after his Russian patrons withdrew their support and convinced him to cut a deal. The problem is that Qaddafi doesn't have a lot of attractive options besides fighting on, which is precisely why he's chosen to act as he has.
Furthermore, using airpower against Qaddafi's army isn't a simple matter, particularly if they taken some elementary precautions, like dispersing or camouflaging equipment. We can bomb airfields and ground air assets, and probably do a number on his command-and-control system, but it's not clear how much that would affect his ability to conduct ground operations against the lightly armed and poorly trained rebel forces. The U.S. Air Force had a lot of trouble finding and destroying Serb military targets during the Kosovo war, and most of the damage it did came from attacks on fixed targets like bridges and power grids.
... this situation doesn't seem well-suited to the kind of devastating air assault that we conducted with heavy bombers against the Iraqi army at the start of Desert Storm, or even the adroit and successful air and special forces campaign that ousted the Taliban in 2001-2002. [my emphasis]