Robert Haddock in an article at Forign Policy warns International airpower will be enough to escalate the civil war in Libya, but not to win it.
After a very short discussion, the U.N. Security Council, led by Britain and France, passed a resolution on March 17 that authorizes the use of military force against Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's regime and forces. The resolution permits the use of "any means necessary" but prohibits a foreign military occupation of Libya. It specifically calls for a no-fly zone and the use of force to protect civilians. The rapid advance of pro-Qaddafi forces toward Benghazi forced the United States to quickly harden its position. Equally surprising were abstentions by China and Russia, allowing the resolution to pass.
Obama administration officials may have thought they would have many more days, or possibly weeks, to organize a multilateral response to the Libyan situation. It seems clear they badly misjudged the timetable pro-Qaddafi forces have been able to maintain.
Although the French government boasted that air strikes against Qaddafi's forces would begin within a few hours after the Security Council vote, organizing an air campaign that will have a meaningful effect on Qaddafi's ground forces will take much longer to organize. Most crucial in this regard is Obama's hesitancy to have U.S. military forces in the lead in this operation. Second is the strong desire by Western powers to have Arab military participation (Qatar and United Arab Emirates are mentioned), hopefully in the very first waves of attacking aircraft. Take away the United States, the most powerful and experienced air power, and add in completely inexperienced Arab air forces, and the result will be many long planning meetings as various European and Arab political and military leaders attempt to cobble together a multilateral air force.
Although his overseas bank accounts have been seized, Qaddafi already has the necessary money, troops, weapons, and ammunition to sustain a low intensity but brutal campaign against the rebels. The investigation begun by the International Criminal Court has left him and his sons with little choice but to fight on. The United Nations has authorized the wide-ranging use of air power against his regime. Air power will be enough to escalate this war but not enough to win it. Although prohibited for now by the Security Council, "boots on the ground" will eventually be required to remove Qaddafi and his sons from Libya.
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While his word choice of “quagmire” might be a bit hyperbolic he highlights the basic problem.
The basic Western policies of supporting democracy, opposing pigs like Qaddafi, humanitarian protection, maintaining peace or least stability to say nothing of a stable oil supply do not seem to Western political leaders to be supportable by normal political means. It was hoped that the rebels would be able to oust Qaddafi but rather it seems they will lose without outside intervention. The UN Securty Council res0lution is an escalation of the means to obtain this goal.
The Just War Doctrine and plain common sense state there should be a reasonable probability of success for launching a military operation. A no fly zone has about zero possibility of success and limited air strikes slightly better. The only thing that is likely to succeed is a full scale attack, ground sea and air, to effect regime change. As noted in the article this will take more time to set up than exists. While one hopes that the calls for only a no fly zone are based on genuine humanitarian motivations, I can’t help but get the feeling that this is an attempt to put a foot in the door to justify a more serious action later. There is a possibility that after removing Qaddafi it will develop into an insurgency but the quicker the action the less chance of that happening.
I am not at all enthusiastic about this operation, and I really doubt it is mandated by our national interest, but if it is to be a success strike hard and fast, don’t pussy foot around with no fly zones and the like. It will save many lives and much suffering in the long run.
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