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Tag: "libya"

Institutions

[ 1 ] July 4, 2011 |

Robert Haddick has an appropriate degree of skepticism regarding plans to maintain the Libyan Army in case of Gaddafi’s fall:

The “Bremer Hypothesis” may get another test in Libya, as Mitchell seems determined to learn from the presumed error. Mitchell and his colleagues are assuming — or at least hoping — that army and police officials in Tripoli and elsewhere in pro-Qaddafi western Libya will readily agree to fall in with the post-Qaddafi political order, which we can assume will be dominated by the anti-Qaddafi National Transitional Council now in Benghazi. Mitchell’s recommendation also seems to assume that the anti-Qaddafi leaders in Benghazi have come to the same conclusion about Bremer’s decision as most policy analysts in the West and will agree to share military and police power with their former enemies in Tripoli. Whether that assumption will remain valid during a post-Qaddafi transition (or if it is even valid now) remains in question.

I would add that the Libyan and Iraqi armies were very different institutions that played very different roles in their respective national cultures. Most obviously, the Iraqi Army was much larger in relation to the population; about twice as large per capita in 2003. This understates the difference, because a much larger proportion of the Iraqi than the Libyan population had served in the Army, often during wartime. The Iraqi Army also had a more robust reputation for professionalism. Although both forces disintegrated in their final conflicts, the Iraqi Army fell apart under concerted ground and air onslaught from the United States and the United Kingdom, while the Libyan Army was falling to pieces even before NATO intervened.

Finally, while there’s good reason to doubt the cohesiveness of the rebel coalition, building a new Army around the fighting forces of the coalition might make quite a lot of sense from a statebuilding perspective. In the event of Gaddafi’s collapse, the various elements of the coalition will begin jockeying for power. Establishing a national army is a good beginning for an effort to buy off the major players. Of course, it will also be necessary to give surviving loyalist elements a reason to buy in to the new order.

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House refuses to authorize use of force in Libya

[ 116 ] June 24, 2011 |

Good for them, and especially for the 70 Democrats who refused to issue an ex post facto rubber stamp for the executive branch’s latest exercise in foreign policy adventurism.

Update: After a classified briefing, almost all Democrats and some Republicans agree to continue funding. My guess is there’s a secret plan to end the war and/or evidence that Quaddafi has acquired or is about to acquire WMDs.

NATO: What is it Good For?

[ 13 ] June 22, 2011 |

My thoughts on Gates’ NATO speech:

It is worth noting, however, that protection of Libyan civilians through airstrikes sits so far outside NATO’s founding purpose that the framers of the 1949 treaty that brought the alliance into existence would hardly recognize the mission. NATO is a tool that has been effectively repurposed since the end of the Cold War, but tools are not infinitely malleable. So while the alliance may not be the ideal tool for managing military intervention in Europe’s “near abroad,” that does not mean that the organization is — or risks becoming — useless. Instead of disparaging allies, it would make more sense for critics to consider what NATO can and cannot do, and adapt their expectations accordingly.

Libya and the WPA

[ 36 ] June 18, 2011 |

I’ve essentially become resigned to executive branch domination of foreign policy — the only thing that can stop it is for Congress to actually assert its prerogatives, and there’s no reason to believe it will do so.    Still, the DOJ lawyers were right: the idea that the attacks on Libya don’t require congressional authorization is not serious, and it represents a further erosion of checks within the executive branch.

Game Over?

[ 34 ] May 27, 2011 |

I suspect we’re coming to the end of the road.

@RT_com: Medvedev at G8: Gaddafi has lost his legitimacy and must step down

See also.

Helicopters over Libya

[ 25 ] May 27, 2011 |

As Rob wrote on Wednesday, Britain and France are deploying attack helicopters to support the mission in Libya.  Last night, Radio 4 reported that the British contribution is four Apaches (why only four?  surely HMS Ocean can have a few more on board), while France is supplying 12 Tigers.

I’m curious as to what people think of the inherent trade-off involved.  While the precision of targeting, especially target identification, is enhanced, Helicopters are considerably more vulnerable to individually operated anti air ranging from rifle fire to shoulder launched missiles (though I have no idea about the loyalists’ assets and capabilities in this area).  If this NYT story is accurate, Qaddafi is playing for time, banking on a continued attenuation in European public and governmental support for the mission (what other options does he have at present?)  If one of these British Apaches goes down with casualties, public opinion here will rapidly head south.  While I’m confident that both the British and French will have search and rescue assets in the air, that far from guarantees recovery.  Hence, the risk.

Of course, it could be the threat of the helicopters that has Qaddafi reportedly hiding in hospitals at night.

Libya Update

[ 90 ] May 25, 2011 |

Been a while, but apparently there’s a war on:

 

Airpower!!!

[ 23 ] May 18, 2011 |

My WPR column this week is an extension of this post from last week:

What has been absent thus far, however, has been the strategic use of airpower: airstrikes designed to induce the regime to concede or collapse without reliance on ground forces. The absence of a strategic airpower element to the Libya campaign is odd, given that most recent air campaigns have included strategically oriented targeting and operations. Air planners in the Vietnam War, Gulf War I and the Kosovo War all hoped that the enemy would concede without the deployment of ground troops. This idea still animates much thinking in the United States Air Force (.pdf).

Incidentally, John Andreas Olsen’s biography of John Warden is really quite good. I particularly recommend the chapters on Warden’s participation in air campaign planning during the Gulf War, and his tenure as Commandant of the Air Command and Staff College. Review when I get a chance…

Some Good News

[ 26 ] May 9, 2011 |

Rebel progress in Libya:

In the besieged western city of Misurata hundreds of rebels broke through one of the front lines late on Sunday, and by Monday afternoon were consolidating their position on the ground a few miles to the city’s west.

The breakout of what had been nearly static lines came after NATO aircraft spent days striking positions and military equipment held by the Qaddafi forces, weakening them to the point that a ground attack was possible, the rebels said.

While not in itself a decisive shift for a city that remained besieged, the swift advance, made with few rebel casualties, carried both signs of rebel optimism and hints of the weakness of at least one frontline loyalist unit.

But more potential signs of loyalist weakness emerged in a battle near the eastern oil town of Brega, where rebel fighters killed more than 36 Qaddafi soldiers and destroyed more than 10 vehicles, according to a senior rebel military official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about military operations. Six rebel fighters died in the battle, the official said, adding that the rebel troops retreated east from Brega after the attack on orders from NATO, presumably in advance of airstrikes.

I think that Chivers wrongly puts the emphasis on airstrikes, which have been more or less a constant since the NATO intervention began. It’s possible that the key development here has been attrition of Gaddafi’s forces, but I rather doubt it; attrition is rarely a major factor, and Loyalist forces have increasingly taken precautions to limit the damage that air attacks cause. Airstrikes work best in combination with coordinated ground assaults. Accordingly, I’m curious as to how the effectiveness of rebel ground forces has changed in the last month. By most accounts it takes quite a while to create an effective, cohesive infantry force. However, all military effectiveness is relative. British and French special operations forces have been working for several weeks, and it’s possible that the early part of the learning slope is sufficiently gentle that substantial gains can be made in a relatively short time. With coordinated airstrikes in support, even a very basically trained infantry force might be able to make progress. It’s also possible, of course, that the rebels are being directly (but secretly) supported by NATO SOF.

We’ll see. The rebels have made progress before, only to see it overturned by new Loyalist offensives. The hope remains that some kind of tipping point can be reached that will lead to significant Loyalist surrenders or defections. Of course, it would be best if the rebels would stop summarily executing surrendered Loyalists, but that’s also something that NATO SOF might be able to help out with.

The Intervention Paradox

[ 0 ] April 25, 2011 |

In text form.

In cartoon form.

New and improved Kinetic Humanitarian Intervention now includes robot killing machines

[ 6 ] April 23, 2011 |

blade runner

Still not a war though.

Interesting thoughts from former Pentagon analyst on the politics of drone warfare.

Yet More on Libya

[ 20 ] April 20, 2011 |

My column this week is on early lessons from Libya:

The bombing of Libya was supposed to teach the region’s autocrats that the international community would not stand by and watch as they massacred peaceful civilians. While it is likely that some form of this lesson has been imparted, it is not entirely clear that Gadhafi’s offensives against Libyan protesters and revolutionaries have “failed.” The NATO intervention has thus far been sufficient to prevent Gadhafi from winning a decisive victory, but it is arguable whether Gadhafi’s position is worse now than if he had not pursued a military campaign against the rebels. Autocrats in similar positions may also draw the lesson that Western intervention does not spell the end. Gadhafi’s ragtag collection of mercenaries and loyalists has done passably well against the air forces of the most powerful states in the world. Indeed, given the fate of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the hands of his own military, dictators may conclude that assembling ad hoc, but loyal, security forces is better than building a powerful but potentially disloyal army. The most important lesson for autocrats may be that killing rebels and protesters is best done quickly and quietly.

Some other Libya links:

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