Wednesday, June 22, 2011

And the Goal of the War in Libya Is ...

David Bromwich, in an article highly critical of President Obama's handling of the war in Libya, among other things, notes the extraordinarily rapid "mission creep" from enforcement of a no-fly zone to protect civilians in Benghazi to an all-out air war plus ground support intended to topple the Qaddafi regime. But if Obama has been silent about his strategic intentions in Libya, so has the principal sponsor of the war, Nicolas Sarkozy. As I noted the other day, French forces have gone all-in on this adventure, to the point where the carrier Charles de Gaulle will have to be withdrawn from service next year for maintenance if the war doesn't end soon (according to a French admiral). Yet we have heard nothing from Sarkozy about how he sees the evolution of military operations, the prospects of imminent victory, or alternative plans if the current strategy proves a failure.

Already there are rumblings in the US about the cost of the operation, the violation of the War Powers Act, and the usefulness of NATO, for which the US now bears 75% of the cost, higher than during the Cold War years. Robert Gates, on his way out as Secretary of Defense, has lambasted the Europeans for their willingness to free-ride on American largesse. Ultimately, Sarkozy's pressure on NATO to get involved in Libya may turn out to be the straw that breaks the camel's back of unquestioned US support for NATO. This war, launched precipitously in the hope that an exit plan would materialize in short order, has become a burden for everyone involved. Once again, we have seen the danger of allowing televised images (in this case of threatened civilians and plucky rebel fighters), overzealous entrepreneurs (today BHL, yesterday the neocons), and false or dubious analogies (the idea that an "Arab spring" could bring about painless regime change across the Arab world) to result in ill-considered engagements from which there is no easy exit.


PtitSeb said...

The debate seems to be even more interesting in Great Britain, where some top military officials have expressed wariness over the continuing intervention, and got rebuked by David Cameron quite vehemently

Anonymous said...

Portraying this as America paying for Europe's military adventurism is a bit much. Let's not confuse the tail for the dog. NATO would not be in Libya if not for America's support for regime change.

The truth of the matter is that as a result of its militarism the United States is going bankrupt and the deadbeats in the Pentagon are trying to get Europe to foot the bill. No thanks!

You observe that the United States bears a disproportionate burden. And whose fault is that? It was your decision to incur this inordinate cost.

The rest of the world has adjusted to a post-Cold War reality. So if you're concerned about America’s excessive spending on defense I suggest you focus on that instead of blasting Europe for its decision not to join in the madness.

So lose the free-rider rhetoric. Nobody’s falling for that bullshit.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Anonymous, No need for your surliness. I agree that the US spends too much on its military and has become a militarist power as a result. But if the US spends less, Europe's insufficiencies will only become more apparent. The Europeans need to spend more on their collective defense, in my view.

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Anonymous said...

@ Art: on the post: I fully agree.

But we should also consider that, launched one month earlier, the military support would have been much more legitimate under humanitarian grounds (it was not a civil war at the time, only a bloody repression of a civil protest) and would probably have been much more successful (also Tripoli was demonstrating, Kaddafi had no more that some hundreds visible supporters, he had had no time to eliminate reasonable people, or Cyreneans, from his army).

So, "launched precipitously in the hope that an exit plan would materialize in short order" is not only the problem — it's also a kind of prerequisite for success, as far as preventing genocides is the issue.

FrédéricLN said...

once again, Anonymous's name is FrédéricLN