Free Markets, Free People

Libya: Military Science 101 at work

I noted the other day that once Gadhafi’s forces figured out how to adapt to the coalition presence and tactics, they’d probably begin to swing the momentum back to their side.  Why?  Because they’re better trained and equipped than the “rebels”.  According to AP that has already begun:

Gadhafi’s forces have adopted a new tactic in light of the pounding that airstrikes have given their tanks and armored vehicles, a senior U.S. intelligence official said. They’ve left some of those weapons behind in favor of a "gaggle" of "battle wagons": minivans, sedans and SUVs fitted with weapons, said the official, who spoke anonymously in order to discuss sensitive U.S. intelligence on the condition and capabilities of rebel and regime forces. Rebel fighters also said Gadhafi’s troops were increasingly using civilian vehicles in battle.

The change not only makes it harder to distinguish Gadhafi’s forces from the rebels, it also requires less logistical support, the official said.

This was both predictable and inevitable (the same thing happened in Kosovo). 

Think about it – what is the hardest thing to distinguish?  Whether or not a civilian vehicle is occupied by good guys or bad guys.  Make your side pretty much identical from the air to the other side and it makes the job the coalition has undertaken much harder.  That’s precisely what the Gadhafi troops have done.

AP also throws this out there:

The shift in momentum back to the government’s side is hardening a U.S. view that the poorly equipped opposition is probably incapable of prevailing without decisive Western intervention – either an all-out U.S.-led military assault on regime forces or a decision to arm the rebels.

I hear a lot of talk about the US (or others) arming the rebels and how that will make the difference.  Nonsense.  While not having the weaponry that the other side has is indeed a disadvantage, it isn’t the rebel alliance’s biggest problem.  Their biggest problem is they’re an untrained and undisciplined rabble.  And an untrained and undisciplined rabble confronting even marginally trained troops with at least a modicum of discipline are going to lose if all else is equal.

While weapons may help, they certainly won’t make the difference. 


The battlefield setbacks are hardening a U.S. view that the opposition is probably incapable of prevailing without decisive Western intervention, a senior U.S. intelligence official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity.

I assume our “unique capabilities” will again be in demand as others “volunteer us” to be a part of the “intervention” that seems inevitable.   Obviously Obama doesn’t want this going on for long but it appears that Gadhafi and his supporters have both the will and the means to defy Obama’s wish.  That leaves the US with the specter of a long and drawn out civil war with the coalition ineffectively hanging out at 30,000 feet.

Finally, we find out today that the CIA is operating among the rebels.  Given their huge history of success in these sorts of endeavors, that has to give you a warm fuzzy feeling, huh?  And while I wouldn’t technically claim it violates Obama’s “no boots on the ground” pledge, it does stretch it a bit.



32 Responses to Libya: Military Science 101 at work

  • This certainly explains the refocus of NATO operations on Tripoli, where they can still distinguish between military and civilian targets.

  • To springboard off your post from yesterday on civilians and – we need a handle for what this force is, Allies?  Coalition? Protectors? – and the Protectors bombing military targets in Tripoli…

    How quickly the peddle contacted the metal….casualties.

  • What happens, if despite all the NATO air power, Ghadaffi manages to push the rebels to the wall and defeats them? That AP article says that the rebels are in retreat and that the Chadians are even now involved in marching east from Sirte.

    Who is going to take the blame for a total clusterf*k if Ghadaffi emerges the grinning victor???

    I assume, in that case, that NATO ground troops will be deployed before that in order to provoke the necessary full-scale war when they are attacked.

    • Of course, if NATO ground troops invade, the Arab League is gone and it will again be the West invading a muslim/Arab country.

      • Well I’m guessing that is just fine by the Arab League, they threw Ghadaffi under the bus out of convenience and as a warning to their own prospective “rebels”. If they get a bit of America bashing in then I’m sure they’ll gladly accept that as an added bonus! The amazing thing is that “intelligent” Obama has walked blithely into what was obviously never going to be good PR for America, or good for civilians in Libya. I wonder if the Nobel committee is on the phone asking for the prize back yet…

    • Of course, if NATO ground troops invade, Obama can kiss off the Left wing of his own party, his roots.

      • Doubtful.  What are they gonna do, allow an EVIL Republican to get the WH and possibly be able to sign a repeal of Barackycare?

        • They could just vote for Angela Davis

        • As Yoda observed “No, there is another”
          Hillary is waiting for the 3:00 AM phone call from the Democratic National Committee.

          • No way.  The second this goes sour, the WH will pin it on her.  And given how pathetic the rebels are (and possibly allied with AQ) she’s a lock to be thrown under the bus.

          • shark: No sale. If the Left isn’t willing to %125 cover for Barack there is no way he can pin this on anybody else, and they aren’t behind him enough to cover that hard. And even if he did manage to pin it on Hillary, now he looks inept and out of control, because this is a Presdential duty and everybody knows that, right down to the dumbest voter. I mean that politically, where even though I’m sure a lot of people believe he’s inept and out of control  around here that is not his current political posture. And as for what the hard left will do, the answer isn’t vote Republican of course, but the answer will be to not vote, which is roughly half as good.

        • We are governed by an executive that goes to war in secret and at will, openly contemptuous of the democratic process and even minimal transparency. and when you realize that that executive actually campaigned against this kind of secretive, dictatorial presidency, you realize how this has become systemic, and the anti-democratic rot is deep.

          Exactly, who is this Andrew Sullivan character anyway ?  He wants the Tea Party to impeach Obama or something

          • “contemptuous of the democratic process and even minimal transparency.”
            What’s he that says so!  Why just the other day, in a secret meeting, he was awarded an….award for the transparency of his administration!
            On of those making the award acknowledged it was a bit like the Noble Peace Prize he got, more for what they expect he’ll do, than what he’s done, but, wow, you know, an award for transparency!  wowza!

          • I wish I was doing a parody there, but, alas, that IS the truth.

      • What’s the old saying, “there is no honor among thieves”?

      • It was never about what Bush did or why he did it.  It was about his party alignment, period. 

  • Meanwhile, the intentions of arming the rebels has run into a snag …

    4. Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi…

    … and of course, paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 is titled “Arms Embargo”

  • Expect to see 10000 troops in LIbya wearing tennis shoes.  Obama can then state “We still dont have any boots on the ground” .  

    • Why 10,000 ?  There are now reports that there are likely only about 1000 rebels total.

  • Dear Lord, please make President Obama lucky.

  • Remember in the ramp up to Iraq, all the leftists lovingly taking care to note which GOP members helped arm Saddam back in the day, etc?  In 2 years or so, I’m gonna rub their noses in this, because arming middle east “rebels” – especially rebels affiliated with AQ,  ALWAYS works out wonderfully as we know.

  • What if this whole thing is to drag out the conflict, which will decimate both sides even more. It’s been established that both sides are bad. If we can help weaken Gaddafi even more, while preventing al-Qaida rebels from getting too powerful to take over the government, then this whole thing might be a “success.”  Of course, there are many downsides to this approach as well. Just looking for the silver lining in all this.

    • Then we can agree the UN has signed on to genocide via civil war?  I’m finding this hard to believe.
      No, it’s a case of normal moon-pony dreaming at the UN coupled with conviction that he cannot be wrong in the out of his depth President of the United States.
      The Perfect Storm blows on.

    • But with “both” sides weakened sufficiently then a power vacuum will follow, which will either be filled by Western occupiers, a new dictator or, more likely, tribal warlords supported by various neighbouring regimes.

    • What if this whole thing is to drag out the conflict,,,

      But it’s not and never was. The British, French, State and Obama rushed in because it looked like a cinch. The rebels looked like they were going to win in a matter of days. The only real problem was to join in time to take credit later.

      It could still go that way — I’m not sure what the expiration date is — hence, the Friedman Prayer: “Dear Lord, please make Obama lucky.”

      If Qaddafi falls and the rebels turn out to be not too bad, it won’t be because there was a deep thoughtful strategy. It will be luck.

      • Pretty much how most UN operations are expected to operate isn’t it?

        1. Get vague “humanitarian resolution” after much jaw-jaw.
        2. Encourage the locals to rise up.
        3. Get the local US carrier battle group to wipe any meaningful opposition from the sky.
        4. A miracle happens here.
        5. Everyone goes home claiming credit.

        Except 5 is more usually:
        5.  Everyone goes home deeply saddened about the dead ethnics but it was an international operation so let’s not start blaming anyone OK?

        • And besides, some UN officials made some moolah selling the underage ethnic girls into prostitution rings.  It’s all good man!

          • I’ve been having a detailed conversation on another blog with what I assume are lefties (devout Obama supporters anyway) and they really, deeply, truly believe that since this is an “international” effort at the behest of the UN then anything that does happen is justified, even if it turns to total shit-soup. It doesn’t matter if it is a complete incoherent mess and Obama is either lying through his teeth or a bumbling fool, they can live with that because really, deeply, truly he isn’t Bush. It’s like talking to a 2 year-old who won’t concede he needs a bath because he stinks.

          • Ah, so….morals are relative – now THERE’S a surprise eh?

  • It looks like Secretary Gates has been the most prescient official. I suspect he is familiar with two of the more famous laws of warfare.
    1. Von Moltke’s Dictum: No plan survives first contact with the enemy.
    2. Von Clausewitz: In war, even the simplest thing is difficult.
    I don’t know what the civilians were thinking, but to me it looks like they imagined knocking off Qaddafi was easy. He is isolated. Threatened by a “popular” revolt and not very well liked by any nation. As a super genius war leader once said, “All we have to do is kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will fall.” They are (were?) operating from a set of flawed assumptions.
    Now it’s been leaked that the President signed a finding approving certain covert operations two or three weeks ago. This has got to be more self serving leaking from the administration. Is it an attempt to demonstrate their seriousness? Or, a means to justify further involvement beyond what the President outlined the other night? Who knows with these people!
    Instead of planning for the worst and hoping for the best, the administration has planned for the best and ignored the worst. This sort of hubris reminds me of the Italian campaign against Abyssinia.
    As an aside, I think it’s really odd that the White House has adopted the taxonomy of kinetic/non-kinetic. Fundamentally, it’s a distinction in tactical operations. Another indicator that national security experts have no understanding of warfare.
    This whole thing is ridiculous. The most powerful nation in the world can’t strike down a two bit dictator.

    • “The most powerful nation in the world can’t strike down a two bit dictator.”
      Nah, we could, you know we could.
      You have to have the will to do it, and Obama does not.
      Furthermore, I find the justification rather sketchy for such behavior, there are many leaders we do not like, in many countries that do no like us.  It’s in the bottom of the pit beneath the slippery slope if we start doing what our ‘unique technical capabilities’ allow us to actually do.
      Just because the President has no plan, and is a well spoken boob, doesn’t mean we couldn’t get Khaddafi if he ever declares that to be the sole mission and so instructs the military.