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Libya–what is the mission? (update)

The supposed mission is to “protect civilians from their own government”.  And we’ve been told that the mission is not “regime change”.  Except, maybe it is:

“As long as Gadhafi remains in power — unless he changes his approach provides the Libyan people the opportunity to express themselves freely and there are significant reforms by the Libyan government, and he steps down — there’s still going to be a potential threat to the Libyan people,” Obama told reporters at a news conference here, his final stop on a five-day tour of Latin America. “We will continue to support the efforts to protect the Libyan people, but we will not be in the lead.”

So … we’ll fly until and “unless he changes his approach provides the Libyan people the opportunity to express themselves freely and there are significant reforms by the Libyan government, and he steps down”?

Uh, hate to break it to everyone but that sounds like “regime change” to me.  It also sounds like a pretty open ended commitment.  The Hill is also confused about the rhetoric it is hearing.  It too thinks it sounds like "regime change”.

Then there’s this:

“When this transition takes place, it is not going to be our planes that are maintaining the no-fly zone,” Obama said. “It is not going to be our ships that are necessarily involved in enforcing the arms embargo. That’s precisely what the other coalition partners are going to do.”

Great and wonderful I guess.  But if the president thinks this is akin to Pilate washing his hands of Jesus and walking away, that’s not going to happen.  While it is nice to see Europe step up, this is and always will be considered an action by the US on the “Arab street”.

And about mission creep?  Well, consider this:

As the coalition military effort has unfolded in recent days, it has been unclear how closely it would coordinate with opposition or armed rebel forces in Libya. Obama did not rule out the possibility of arming the rebels.

“Obviously, we’re discussing with the coalition what steps can be taken. I think that our hope is that the first thing that happens once we have cleared this space is that the rebels are able to start discussing how they organize themselves, how they articulate their aspirations for the Libyan people and create a legitimate government,” the president told CNN.

Arming the rebels (which the administration admits they know almost nothing) would be picking sides.  In a rebellion/civil war.  Given the description of how the country breaks down tribally, we’d immediately alienate half the Libyans.   And we’d then have manufactured a vested interest in seeing the future Libya shaped in our imagined image. 

Any idea of how the “optics” of such a mission creep would be viewed by the rest of the ME?  And it would apparently be creep since the commander on the scene does not think it is part of his mission:

Gen. Carter F. Ham, who is leading the U.S. effort in Libya, said today that the mission is "not to support opposition forces," but later added that the coalition will not support rebels if they take offensive action against Gadhafi’s regime, only if they are attacked.

Or perhaps they will per Obama not ruling out the possibility of arming the rebels, a very short step from supporting “opposition forces”.  In fact it would be “supporting opposition forces” for anyone objectively viewing the situation.

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes says:

“What we’re trying to accomplish is to stop the assaults on those population centers and get the Gadhafi forces to stop their offensives there, their shellings of those civilian areas and their potential attacks on civilians in those areas; and then have a no-fly zone in place that can ensure that Qadhafi is not using any of his air assets or substantial military assets to launch offensives against his own people,” Rhodes said.

But their air assets really never were used very much or very effectively.  Admiral Sam Locklear yesterday at a DoD briefing:

Qadhafi’s air force was never the epitome of potency, Locklear said Tuesday; before the alliance attacked last weekend, Libya had some old broken-down jets and a few dozen helicopters it used in its campaign against the rebel alliance. Almost all of those aircraft are now destroyed or weren’t operational in the first place, Locklear said, meaning they’re now a non-issue: "I am completely confident that the air force of Colonel Gadhafi will not have a negative impact on the coalition, and that … if there were anything that we didn’t see or that we [weren’t] able to influence by our initial campaign, that we’d be able to manage that."

There are also reports coming in that the attacks in civilian areas have not been halted, but instead continue

Last night, there was no sign the heavy Western bombardment had shifted the balance decisively in favour of the poorly armed anti-Gaddafi forces. Libyan government forces were fighting back last night on the eastern front line near the key city of Ajdabiya. The counter-attack followed the failure of rebel forces to take the city on Sunday despite air attacks having destroyed regime tanks and artillery. By yesterday evening, there were reports that the regime’s troops were moving south once again to threaten the route to Tobruk and the Egyptian border.

So now what?  And a question that comes to mind – what if we arm the rebels and they begin to drive on Tripoli and in so doing, begin killing civilians?  Show stopper?  Do we intervene then too?

Finally the new coalition command structure appears to be one of compromise which may or not function well.  NATO appears it will have a role because of its supposed superior “command and control capability”.  But the French also want a lead roll and certainly the Arabs want a say so. 

The French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé, told the French parliament yesterday that a compromise deal would see a "political steering group" of coalition foreign ministers plus the Arab League take over political direction of the air campaign.

And anyone who has made a study of war knows that such a structure (I hesitate to call it a command structure) is fraught with many downside possibilities, one of which is an inability to quickly make decisions, especially with the necessity to consult with a “political steering group” first.  It will be more like war by committee.   Yeah, nothing could go wrong with that, could it?

UPDATE:  The UK’s Daily Mail provides a Libya update bullet list:

  • Tensions with Britain as Gates rebukes UK government over suggestion Gaddafi could be assassinated
  • French propose a new political ‘committee’ to oversee operations
  • Germany pulls equipment out of NATO coalition over disagreement over campaign’s direction
  • Italians accuse French of backing NATO in exchange for oil contracts
  • No-fly zone called into question after first wave of strikes ‘neutralises’ Libyan military machine
  • U.K. ministers say war could last ’30 years’
  • Italy to ‘take back control’ of bases used by allies unless NATO leadership put in charge of the mission
  • Russians tell U.S. to stop bombing in order to protect civilians – calls bombing a ‘crusade’

Looking good, no?  You can read all about it at the link.




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36 Responses to Libya–what is the mission? (update)

  • I hate to sound selfish, but let’s just hope and pray that no Americans get killed as a result of this mess.

    I guess that we can also hope that, no matter how bumbling the civilian leadership may be, the US, British, and French armed forces are pretty competent and may be able to get the job done in the face of command idiocy.

    • “may be able to get the job done”

      What job is that? If you can define it, good on ya, mate. Our political and military ‘leaders’ seem to have as much trouble defining what exactly we are doing as they have trying to decide who is in charge. What we have now is not even up to the quality of being run by a committee. 

  • Shaking head; I have, on numerous occasions, compared Obama to Jimmy Carter. I will no longer do that. Obama is in a class all by himself, incomparable.

  • Well, this bodes ill for the committee…
    If Operation Odyssey Dawn goes in the crapper, will it be replaced with Operation Enduring Narcissism?
    Just a thought.

    • We are losing buoyancy in tanks 4 and 5!!!, shall i prepare the parachutes my messiah?
      But Herb (short for Herr Erb) assures us, our involvement will be limited.  Obama wisely will make sure the EU takes responsibility.  You know, as I type that, it makes sense, he generally makes sure everyone BUT him takes responsibility for situations like this.
      Reminder of the Obama motto “When you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter how you get there”.

      • Obozo is to leadership as Erp is to scholarship. They do indeed ‘think’ alike.

  • OH, no!  He di-ent…!!!

    Speaking in Chile to defend his decision to launch Operation Odyssey Dawn, President Obama couldn’t resist taking a swipe at George Bush, in a clumsy attempt to make himself look superior.
    As reported by Fox News, the President declared: “In the past there have been times when the United States acted unilaterally or did not have full international support, and as a consequence typically it was the United States military that ended up bearing the entire burden.”


    • Right, because putting together a coalition of 30 countries and spending months getting Congressional approval and seeking UN support is acting “unilaterally”.

      And it’s not like Obama has “full international support”, what with Russia (among others) opposing this.

      • BRICS – Brazil, Russia India, China, South Africa – all in opposition.

        • I think I know why Russia abstained on the UN vote.  Being smarter than Obozo and his circus, they knew just what a tar baby this would be. Would ‘grab a tar baby by the tail’ be excessive? 

        • I’m also opposed to it…ok I’m just one fellow in CA

      • Well, it is just ANOTHER outright lie in service of evoking BOOOOooooooooooooosh The Hated (straw man nonpareil).
        Wonderfully illustrative of how weak this guy’s spit is…

    • Follow-up…
      “Gates downplayed the prospect of military action in Libya, noting that there is no clear support from the United Nations or a consensus among U.S. allies.”

      Well, that certainly went south quick…

  • Assuming we elect a Republican president in 2012 and assuming that he or she is competent, how long and how hard will it be to undo the damage Obama has done in foreign policy? Or any other area for that matter?

    Never mind whether we should or should not be in Libya — I could argue either way — you just know that Obama will execute in some mucked up muddle of a way that won’t work which is characteristic of his presidency.

    • It didn’t take Reagan long at all.
      W…after 9/11…did not require a lot of time to make our position in the world known.  (Whenever I start to regret my votes for W, I remember who he was up against for POTUS, and I have to be grateful we had him in that context.)

      • I hope so. With any luck the world will see that Obama is a very special case of an American president, who became elected under very special circumstances, and not representative of the country as a whole.

        Well, most of the rest of the world fell for Obama too, so maybe they will understand. I notice that I don’t see or hear Obama love anymore, anywhere. It’s quite striking.

  • Another brilliant foreign policy coup, brilliantly executed by the best and brightest graduates of our finest educational institutions.

    • Wow, just think how bad a mess we would be in if we were governed by graduates of educational slums like the U. of Idaho.

      • Some of our very best leaders had very modest formal education…Lincoln next to none.
        Some of our very WORST were considered brilliant, and had great academic creds.

      • Harvard and Columbia did us no favors with Pres**ent Obama.

        • But fostering American interests and values is the LAST thing those institutions are about.
          BHO is EXACTLY who they wanted to turn out.

  • Tensions with Britain as Gates rebukes UK government over suggestion Gaddafi could be assassinated
    Why, oh WHY are we still saddling ourselves with the idiot proscription against “assassination”???  If the goal is to get rid of Ghaddaffi (sounds good to me, actually), then zeroing him out seems like a good way to do that without the fuss and collateral damage of airstrikes and so forth.  And let’s say that he just “happens” to be hit by a 500lbs bomb.  How is that NOT an assassination?  Is this some kind of post-modernist spin that it only counts as “assassination” if you have a spy shoot him with a rifle or stab him with a dagger, but it DOESN’T count as an assassination if it’s done by an Air Force pilot from 30,000 ft or a Navy officer launching a cruise missile from an SSN a hundred miles away?

    timactualWhat job is that? If you can define it, good on ya, mate.

    Good point.  I guess I’m defining it in my terms.  Since we’re at war, then finish the job:

    1.  Kill or capture Ghaddaffi

    2.  Eliminate his regime and hang any of his hoodlums who are convicted of serious crimes

    3.  Establish a US military government to run the country and start training the locals to take over

    4.  Gradually allow more and more local control concurrent with democratic elections and the establishment of a representative government

    5.  Get out

    Sort of like what we’re doing in Iraq.

    [T]he President declared: “In the past there have been times when the United States acted unilaterally or did not have full international support, and as a consequence typically it was the United States military that ended up bearing the entire burden.”

    How pathetic is this little man that he can’t resist beating up on – LYING ABOUT – his predecessor???  Jeebus, and I thought Slick Willie was a waste of a human life.

    • Good on ya. You have successfully done in minutes what the Obozo clown college has not been able to do in weeks. You must not have an advanced degree from Yale, Harvard, or Johns Hopkins. If you were adequately educated you would know that 1) wea are not now and never will be in a war in Libya 2) action against the person of kadaffy is a no-no 3) absolutely no US presence is allowable. Other than exploding ordnance, of course.
      Obozo says this adventure will take days, not weeks. It looks like it will take weeks just to figure out who is in charge. I doubt they will ever decide how exactly to accomplish whatever is is that they wish to accomplish.
       I can only conclude that there is only stunned amazement in Peking and Moscow. Soon there will be religious conversions as they conclude that such a gift as this American administration can only come from an all-powerful beneficient deity. I expect that soon we will see, engraved on their military belt buckles, the Russian/Chinese equivalent of ‘Gott Mit Uns’.

      I am beginning to think that doom sayers like Billy Beck may be right. And I am way too old to enjoy “The best of times, the worst of times”.

  • So, I guess what they’re saying is that every possible explanation for the mission is on the table.

    • As some commentators have noted, Obama appears not to have much understanding of Machiavelli…
      “when you strike at a king, you must kill him.”

      Payback can be a mofo…

  • Rush just asked an interesting question…
    Where is Colin Powell…???? “You break it, you own it”.

  • Somewhere in a bunker in China –
    “Wang!  Stop screwing around with those buttons!  You second shift people are beginning to annoy me!”
    “My Apologies!”
    “You have, to date, made Obama Minion use EVERY possible excuse for why he has attacked Libya, except of course the real one – If you keep it up even the Americans may begin to get suspicious!”
    “I do not think so sir”
    >chuckle<  “It IS entertaining Wang, but please no more for a few days.  Have him go golfing again, they expect that.”

    • Are you even joking that Obama might be a robot? That is so ridiculous, and so typical. You dense righties like to dehumanize your opponents, don’t you? Well, it’s just awful that you do that. Why, with my advanced degree, degree, degree, degree, degree, degree, degree, degree, deg


  • So sad, I had to create what in a reality based world a newspaper headline would look like
    My thoughts and prayers for the men and women in our military and what they must be going through as they attempt to plan for the many many changes in direction and a lack of leadership from the top.
    I also wish we had a Carrier closer for the inevitable SNAFU. Dodged a bullet with those rescued aircrew.

  • Isn’t it clear?We want Kaddafy gone, but we don’t want to actually say that, because it upsets two kinds of people – some on the left, and of course, our Arab allies who are not very democratic. So ambiguity it is. Frankly, Obama needs to sit down with the MSM and tell them to stop asking questions about this. I mean, most of the MSM is already explaining that Libya is NOT like Iraq at all.

  • apparently this is costing nato $100m/wk
    taking out qwadaffi or whatver his name is could at least hurry the damn thing up