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Tag: "libya"

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:



[ 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:

Unity of Command

[ 20 ] April 19, 2011 |


The first question the British will face is “Whose army?”

For they will find themselves advising a ragtag rebel force that cannot even agree on who its top officer is, amid squabbling between two generals who both come with unsavory baggage.

The dysfunction was on full display here this week. “I control everybody, the rebels and the regular army forces,” one of the two, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, said in an interview on Monday. “I am the field commander, and Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes is chief of staff. His job is to support us in the field, and my job is to lead the fighting.”

The rebels’ civilian leadership, the Transitional National Council, has insisted, however, that General Younes remains in charge of the military. “This is not true,” an official close to the council said Tuesday when told of General Hifter’s claims. “General Younes is over him, this is for sure, and General Hifter is under him.”

Last week, Pithlord wrote:

On the purely military level, isn`t it significant that the Rebellion`s weaknesses are in the areas where NATO assistance is most useful: weaponry, logistical capacity, aripower and money. A small investment by NATO`s standards can have a huge impact on the military balance.

There were reasons to suspect that this wasn’t true at the beginning of the intervention, and now it has become painfully clear that this statement is wrong. What the rebels lack is training, organizational cohesion, and political acumen. NATO cannot, with “a small investment,” solve these problems.  A capable rebel force might emerge over a year or so, assuming that that de facto partition results in a rebel state strong and coherent enough to field useful military forces.

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