Thursday, April 21, 2011

Quagmire in the Desert

Quote of the day:

“Some countries thought the Libya operation could be over quickly,” said a senior NATO ambassador. “But no military commander thinks so.”

France is not named, but naming is hardly necessary. If the Libyan war achieves nothing else, it will have served to highlight the divisions in NATO and the EU. Indeed, the very rationale of collective defense is being questioned:

“As soon as NATO went out of area it stopped being an alliance,” said François Heisbourg, a defense expert at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. “In area, it is an unlimited liability partnership. But now with a global scope, everything must be negotiated, and it’s all à la carte. That’s the post-cold-war world.”
Tomas Valasek, a defense expert at the London-based Center for European Reform, compared NATO to an American political party, “a coalition of countries with broadly the same interests, but with different views.”
It was inevitable after the cold war, he said, that NATO countries would focus on different threats: terrorism and Afghanistan for some, like the United States, Britain, Canada and the Netherlands; Russia, for the Central Europeans.
“As for the rest,” he said, “I don’t even know why they stay in NATO.”
NATO will never be what it was, Mr. Valasek said. “NATO will become more of a transactional place in the future, so, as in Libya, more often than not there will be coalitions of the willing, with NATO support.”

Indeed, the organization has not even been very effective as a military coordinator, because it has imposed additional layers of bureaucratic command and control on national military commands, resulting in less timely targeting (if BHL can be believed as a critic of military affairs--which is admittedly a large if). Since this is largely Sarkozy's war, it may prove to be a handicap if it is still raging once the presidential campaign starts in earnest. On the other hand, casualties among the allies remain non-existent, unless you count journalists, two of whom (Tim Hetherington and Chris Hodros) were killed yesterday, while French soldiers continue to die in Afghanistan (where there were major casualties yesterday) without much effect on French opinion.

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