Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Libya War: expect to be there a long time

Stephen Walt writes in Whatever happened to the war in Libya? Foreign Policy 07/11/2011:

... back when NATO first got involved [in the Libya War], a number of people made the obvious comparison to the 1999 war in Kosovo. Both wars were launched on impulse, there were no vital strategic interests involved, and both wars were fought "on the cheap" through the use of air power. NATO leaders expected the targets to succumb quickly and were surprised when their adversaries (Milosevic in 1999, Qaddafi today) hung on as long as they did.

But there's another parallel that deserves mention too. Serbia eventually surrendered, and I expect that Qaddafi or his sons will eventually do so too. But in the case of Kosovo, NATO and the U.N. had to send in a peacekeeping force, and they are still there 10 years later. And Kosovo has only about 28 percent of Libya's population and is much smaller geographically (some 10,000 square kilometers, compared with Libya's 1,800,000 sq. km.). So anybody who thinks that NATO, the United Nations, or the vaguely defined "international community" will be done whenever Qaddafi says uncle (or succumbs to a NATO airstrike) should probably lower their expectations and prepare themselves for long-term involvement in a deeply divided country. [my emphasis]
And they are likely to encounter some problems in that longer mission; see C.J. Chivers, Reporter's Notebook: Reading the Rebels in Western Libya, Pt. I New York Times 07/10/2011.

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