Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Word from the Other Side

Two notes from people who support the Libya intervention. First, they had a vote in the British House of Commons, and intervention won by 557-13.

Second, here is Tom Ricks, my favorite military reporter:

Everybody's going all wobbly over Libya, except those who never liked the idea in the first place. Tom's advice: Calm down. We have done what we set out to do in Libya. We kicked the door down, and with radars and SAM sites degraded, have made it possible for lesser air forces to patrol the skies over Qaddafi.

We should now say, OK, we have created the conditions, time for you all to have the courage of your convictions. The goal now for the United States, I think, is a negative one: To not be conducting a no-fly zone over Libya 5 years or even 5 months from now. If the French and Italians want to park the good ships Charles de Gaulle and Garibaldi off the Libyan coast, good. And if the Arab states want to maintain an air cap over Benghazi, fine. Step right up, fellas.

As for the American military, let's knock off the muttering in the ranks about clear goals and exit strategies. Fellas, you need to understand this is not a football game but a soccer match. For the last 10 years, our generals have talked about the need to become adaptable, to live with ambiguity. Well, this is it. The international consensus changes every day, so our operations need to change with it. Such is the nature of war, as Clausewitz reminds us. Better Obama's cautious ambiguity than Bush's false clarity. Going into Iraq, scooping up the WMD, and getting out by September 2003 -- now that was a nice clear plan. And a dangerously foolish one, too. The clearer we are now about command and control, rules of engagement and other organizational aspects of the intervention, the harder it will be to pass if off. Better they do it in their own way than we make it so they can only do it our way.

I have to ask, though, what good it is going to do to "patrol the skies" over Libya once Qaddafi's troops finish crushing the rebellion. Saddam did it without planes and so can Qaddafi.


David said...

As long as the coalition keeps Qaddafi's forces from using the road to Benghazi, and the coastal waters, they can likely keep him from completely crushing the rebellion. I'm skeptical of his ability to, for example, infiltrate a purely infantry force across the desert into Benghazi, at least one that could attack in decisive strength. We may well be looking at an indefinite East and West Libya situation.

John said...

You may be right. But Qaddafi can certainly send agents across the desert to plant bombs or launch raids in Benghazi, insuring that peace never really comes. Plus he must have some Scud missiles he can launch every so often. What sort of lives will the residents of Free East Libya be able to put together under those circumstances? Especially since their continued survival will always depend on the French keeping the road from Tripoli closed?

David said...

I wouldn't say it was a plan, or anything I would want the US to be responsible for, but as you know, historically many peoples have lived like that for generations, even many centuries.

John said...