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About a no-fly zone over Libya

Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson had this to say on one of the Sunday shows today:

Richardson made recommendations for that policy. "What I think the U.S. Needs to do is, one, covertly arm the rebels. We should take that step. Develop a no-fly zone."

"Some kind of no-fly zone is going to be necessary mainly to send a message to Libya’s military and Gadhafi that the U.S. and international community is not with them," he continued.

Does anyone know what all of that entails?  Establishing a No Fly Zone I mean.  We need a reality check.

Here’s a guess based on what I know has to happen to establish air superiority/air dominance (and this is being written quickly without any real attempt to research it) in an area.

First, intelligence has to be developed pinpointing both air defenses and where hostile aircraft are located.  That takes a little time.  Most likely that’s an on-going effort right now.

Secondly, a time and date have to be established and communicated to the Libyan government of when the NFZ will be established.  The obvious message is “if anything is in the air and identified as a Libyan military attack asset, it dies.”

Third, someone gets to go test it out to see what the state of Libya is willing or unwilling to do.  I.e. some intrepid pilots get to sortie into the airspace and see what the reaction will be. 

If they are fired upon by enemy air defense, then step four is a country wide (perhaps, depending where the NFZ is located) SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) missions must be run.  Step four may be run with or without a check to see the Libyan reaction to foreign aircraft introduced into their air space.

SEAD missions are usually a combination of cruise missiles and what used to be called Wild Weasel missions (they may still be, I’m just not up on the parlance).  The WW missions are usually the job of multi-role fighters toting HARM missiles.  Once a site lights up their sector with radar trying to lock on the WW, this missile is fired, locks on to the radiated signature of the search radar and follows the beam right back to the source.  Meanwhile the source is feeding missile sites the WW’s data and trying to knock it out of the sky. 

Once the air defenses are suppressed (which can take some time with a proficient enemy and mobile air defenses), then you can introduce air superiority platforms into the conflicted skies to keep other aircraft from flying.  Their job is to keep the Libyan attack air assets from flying in the areas designated NFZ.

And they can only engage hostile aircraft according to whatever Rules of Engagement (ROE) have been agreed upon and issued.  And then there’s the SAR piece to be put together.

That’s just the tactical portion of it (or at least the portion that comes to mind as I write this).

On the planning side of things, you have to determine, given the size of the NFZ, how many aircraft are going to be necessary to patrol that 24/7 until the mission is called off.

Now you back off of that and try to figure out A) where they’ll be based, B) how they’re be supported logistically and C) where that logistical support will come from.    Then you have to get it all together at the proper places.

Since you’re going to have to base out of the country, you’re talking increased flying time to get in an out of Libya which decreases the time on station/target.  You want to maximize their time on station, which means tanker support. 

If it is a multi-nation effort, like NATO, now add in all the coordination over an above the usual coordination problems that such an effort brings to the table.  Things such as what the share of the mission will go to each country, what logistics assets they’re going to have to share, who’ll be in command, etc.

Said succinctly, doing this isn’t something you just snap your fingers and boom, NFZ established.  I’m sure there are things I’ve left out.  But you get the idea.  Establishing an NFZ is a huge undertaking (and, as I understand it the first site for land based aircraft near Libya is 350 miles away).  And it brings me to something White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said today about the same subject – something I agree with completely:

"They talk about it like it’s a game or a video game or something."

"When people comment on military action, most of them have no idea what they’re talking about," he said.

Precisely.  Most people and politicians are clueless about what it takes to mount this sort of an operation.

And factored in on top of all of this, are the politics of the situation.  We have to ask, do we really want American planes flying over Libya?  In fact, you have to ask, given the colonial past, do we want any Western aircraft flying over it?

Of course that leaves few choices as to countries that could capably handle it, but my druthers are that if the West decides a NFZ must be established, countries other than the US do it.

This is as much a European problem as anyone’s.  My guess is (and unfortunately I have a feeling this administration will play right along and eventually get sucked into it) they’ll try to lay it off on the UN with an eye on the US being the major participant in a UN backed effort to enforce an NFZ.

Of course that won’t stop the importation of civilian mercenaries into Libya unless those enforcing the NFZ are prepared to shoot down chartered civilian aircraft or unarmed military cargo aircraft.  And if the air route is cut off, I have no doubt that Gahdaffi’s minions will establish an overland route as an alternative to the air routes. 

Anyway, I understand the desire for an NFZ and the hoped for outcome – keep Gahdaffi’s fighters and attack heli’s on the ground so they’re not bombing and rocketing innocent civilians.  Got it.  The question is, is that our job?

I’m feeling a big “no” as the answer.  Time for others to step up.  Time for others to take the bulk of the action if there’s to be any (we could lend some tanker and other log support).  It would actually be good for the world for that to happen … to see the Western powers who’ve depended mostly on the US to be their military arm having to pick up the mission and conduct it.

I’m wondering if they could (I know the Brits understand how it is done since they flew Desert Fox missions with us).  Oh, and as a side note, every day spent dithering about whether or not to do it means another day’s delay in actually doing it (and it could take a few weeks to a month or so to get everything in place, depending on who is doing it).

But I’ve got to say, I’d like to see someone else do it for a change.

Wouldn’t you?

~McQ

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34 Responses to About a no-fly zone over Libya

  • I hope that the libs (and the GOP, for that matter) keep this sort of thing in mind when it comes to perhaps cutting the defense budget: it’s a LOT easier to do this sort of thing if you’ve got a large, robust, forward-deployed military.  Back before we started spending “the peace dividend”, there would have been several carriers in the Med or able to get there quickly to establish an NFZ; now, getting even one carrier in a bit of a strain.

    Richardson
    - What I think the U.S. Needs to do is, one, covertly arm the rebels. We should take that step.

    Um, earth to Bill: it’a ain’t “covert” if you TELL PEOPLE YOU’RE DOING IT.  Jeebus, and this guys is considered an “elder statesman” by the left.

    McQ[S]omeone gets to go test it out to see what the state of Libya is willing or unwilling to do.  I.e. some intrepid pilots get to sortie into the airspace and see what the reaction will be. 

    If they are fired upon by enemy air defense, then step four is a country wide (perhaps, depending where the NFZ is located) SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) missions must be run. 

    I’m pretty sure the flying armed aircraft into another country’s sovereign air space is an act of war.  I’m certain that dropping bombs on an enemy country is an act of war.  I realize that decades of “police actions” and “interventions” have allowed a lot of people to pretend that this isn’t so, but it is.  Is achieving some feeling of virtue by getting rid of this lunatic (after forty f*cking years) worth that?

    As a personal matter, I don’t have a particular problem with knocking of Ghaddaffi; we should have done it years ago.  However, even a war-monger like me recognizes that (A) this will require ground troops; (B) the Libyan people probably won’t like it; (C) the rest of the ME won’t like it, and; (D) we don’t have the resources just now.

    Bill DaleyThey talk about it like it’s a game or a video game or something.

    Yeah, the US military DOES make it look easy, don’t they?  Again, something to consider when proposals for cutting defense spending are bruited about: you don’t get the kind of first-class military that makes war like a video game without spending a lot of time and money developing it.

  • McQ:

    I’ve read enough qando posts via memeorand links to know you folks think Obama is a soshalist taxspending librul nogoodnik blah blah.

    But you have to admit. Hearing this sentence uttered on the record on a Sabbath Gasbag show by a high White House official:

    “They talk about it like it’s a game or a video game or something.”

    Is ALONE worth having voted for Obama over McCain.

    • Wow.  You go down in the book as an easy piece if that is all it takes to romance you…!!!!

      • Rags:

        Hey. If you’re a a radical libertarian or communist, on economics the Dems and Repubs are just “haggling about the price” to quote Churchill. So the only real potential difference is on foreign and military affairs.

        Is there anybody on the staff McCain might have put together who would say anything like what Daley said? (Hint: MCain himself was a Sabbath Gasbag today. Bigger Hint: No.)

    • Obama is the empty suit to out do all empty suits.
      They are talking about like a video game.    Libya is important to the US because … oil ?
      If you really think that “blood for oil” is a good idea (and want to support “your” choice of Presient, I suggest that (if you aren’t too old,which I doubt) you go down to your local recuiting station and say that you want to man the “no fly zone over Libya.”  Their “big smiles” will be your ticket to this “video game” of all video games.

      • Neo:

        You talking to me? Methinks you misundersttod my comment because I agree with you, McQ and Daley.

        And not only am I too old to volunteer, I’m so old I could’ve been drafted into combat inh 1970.

    • voted for Obama over McCain
      Frankly, they both sucked.  I would trust a drugged out pimp before I would trust either of them.

    • Did the Obamic “high” official ever fly combat air missions, I wonder…???
      Was HE shot down, and did HE spend time as a tortured prisoner in a hell-hole while people like Obama spat on his brothers in arms?
      Just wondering…

      • Rags:

        Now I’m confused.

        Are you supportive of the idea of American military force being applied to the civil war in Libya or not?

        Obama’s CoS said sumpin’ on teevee. Libertarian blogger/pundit Bruce McQuain agreed with that sumpin’. Then I came along and agreed with McQ agreeing with that sumpin’.

        What does John McCain having been a POW have to do with whether the USA should intervene in Libya?

        • As to your first statement, I concur.  You are confused.
          As to U.S. armed forces being inserted in Libya, I am agnostic.  That could change as conditions change.
          McCain has publicly supported a “no-fly” zone.  I reckon he has a better appreciation that is “not a video game” than some Administration smart-ass puppy.
          How ’bout you?

          • “I reckon he has a better appreciation that is “not a video game” than some Administration smart-ass puppy.”

            Yes, but that doesn’t make him right.

          • Rags:

            I reckon he has a better appreciation that is “not a video game” than some Administration smart-ass puppy..

            Um. No, he doesn’t. That rather functions as a circular argument. I ask what being a POW has to do with policy, you tell me because he was a POW. John McCain is a bellicose semi-senile warmongering fool. It may very well be that it’s BECAUSE he was a POW that he’s a bellicose interventionist. I actually don’t know. That’s why I’m pointing to the policy and not whether some guy used to be in the military or not.

      • What does any of that have to do with the time necessary and difficulty in setting up a NFZ?

        • Bruce:

          We’re not going to intervene. So the time & difficulty issue is somewhat moot. That’s what Daley was signalling. And that seemed to be the outcome you preferred.

          The point I was making was that if you listen to what McCain said on the competing Sabbath Gasbag show, it’s clear that policy preference would have been the reverse had he won in 2008.

          • I’m not disputing your point, I’m just wondering how McCain having been a POW somehow ameliorates or changes the time necessary or the requirements for setting up an NFZ.

            BTW, I disagree – I think the White House will eventually be pressured into participating by the “international community”. What I expect, though, is it will be too late at the point it is done to have any effect on the outcome – much like the imposition of the NFZ on Iraq after Saddam had already crushed the rebellion. Daley’s right, but that’s not going to matter. And another thing, I don’t think Daley was so much signaling an unwillingness to do it as much as excusing not having done it by this point.

          • Bruce:

            I think the White House will eventually be pressured into participating by the “international community”.

            I disagree. I think there’s something very profound and not yet quite evident going on in the relationship between this Administration and the Beltway military/foreign affairs Beltway conventional wisdomites, and even between this Administration and International conventional wisdomites.

            Look, for instance, at David Cameron’s boastful then bashful statements about the NFZ.

            It looks to me like Bob Gates, Obama himself and the anti-estanblishment types in his National Security entourage like Jared Bernstein and Stephannie Powers are trying to “turn the aircraft carrier” of elite consensus away from interventionism and first-resort world policeman.

            BUT

            That’s really hard to do and odds on you’re right. But I’ll take my end of the wager, especially if we can get someone to replace Gates who continues the push.

          • I don’t disagree with your desired endstate, however, like you, I’ll stick with my end of the wager for eventual intervention.

  • If somebody tells me who the rebels are, who is behind them, and who they are beholden to, then I can tell you what the U.S. interest might be, and from there it gets easier. But the why is connected to the who. Not knowing is just bullshit. We might help a faction that’s worse than Gaddafi’s, where there’s no reason to even help keep the fight going. Unless someone wants world oil prices to go higher.

    So, it’s not clear to me that either the moral calculus or the strategic interest overcome the barrier for interference in the sovereign affairs of Libya.

    Acquiring the data on Libya radar and air defense sites is probably already done, or so one would hope, as an element of general strategic preparedness in that command area.

    • These guys are winging it.  There is virtually no oragaization other that tribal relations.
      If they manage to win, the politicians and imans will sell them out in a minute.

    • Martin McPhillipsIf somebody tells me who the rebels are, who is behind them, and who they are beholden to, then I can tell you what the U.S. interest might be, and from there it gets easier. But the why is connected to the who. Not knowing is just bullshit. We might help a faction that’s worse than Gaddafi’s…

      Excellent point.  Most people are wrapped up in “Ghaddaffi is a dirty SOB who needs to go” that they don’t think about how he MIGHT be the best option.  The left is still wrapped up in the “everybody who protests in the ME is just pining for Enlightenment-style republican democratic government” (i.e. moon ponies).  Neither of these are good paradigms for making such a major decision.

    • Oh, that’s easy, the Rebels are innocents yearning for Democracy.  You can tell, because they’re rebels attacking the current government, which is a whackjob tyranny (as opposed to being a non-whackjob tyranny, like you find in Iran, or something, try not to think too hard on it, it’ll make your head hurt to figure it out).

      The Rebels aren’t disaffected Libyan army units (no, those tanks and heavy weaps they’re using were….left over in the basement from….the….uh….didn’t the British and Germans fight in North Africa during the Revolutionary War?  yeah, that’s it, those T-62 tanks I keep seeing in footage are left over from that Revolutionary war thingie).

      Besides all I need to know is GEORGE W. BUSH is NOT President, and so any finger poking interventionist behavior we pull now is OKAY, and don’t you dare start talking about war for oil.  This is our sudden, renewed, humanitarian desire to help the oppressed that we always seem to get when a Democrat is in office and we need to remind Americans how good (and tough…resolute, smart, and tough) he is.

  • Does anyone know what all of that entails?  Establishing a No Fly Zone I mean

    >>>> I thought the no-fly zone we established over Iraq was reprehensible and at least in part responsible for all the suffering in Iraq pre-war?

    Oh wait, I forget, with certain people, history always begins yesterday….

    • “Oh wait, I forget, with certain people, history always begins yesterday….”

      Close. History begins whenever they need it to begin for the tactical argument they want to make right now.

      Sure, more often than not, that’s yesterday. But, if it’s necessary tactically to excuse Islam, then it goes back to the Crusades. Or possibly colonial slavery.

      That’s why I stopped serious debate with hardcore lefties: their totally tactical approach to debating. It’s all about rhetorical advantage. There are no fixed principles, just expedience. There’s no sense of history, just cherry-picking (and distorting if necessary) any historical notes that support today’s argument. Or if there are none, then as you point out, they just pretend there’s nothing relevant to whatever silly thing they want to do today.

      • Or possibly colonial slavery.
        These guys invented salvery before the Romulus and Remus were suckling the she-wolf.

  • I can’t say I’m an expert, but some thoughts:

    First, intelligence has to be developed pinpointing both air defenses and where hostile aircraft are located.  That takes a little time.  Most likely that’s an on-going effort right now.

    I hope that’s something our military and intelligence community have been doing for some time now.  Gadhafi’s Libya isn’t a new problem — for us or for our European allies.

    Since you’re going to have to base out of the country, you’re talking increased flying time to get in an out of Libya which decreases the time on station/target.  You want to maximize their time on station, which means tanker support.

    Wouldn’t that be greatly simplified by the fact that Libya’s population lies mostly on the coast, and mostly in the west and east rather than the center?  NFZ patrols could go only a short distance into Libyan territory and cover a lot of people.

    Time for others to step up.  Time for others to take the bulk of the action if there’s to be any (we could lend some tanker and other log support).  It would actually be good for the world for that to happen … to see the Western powers who’ve depended mostly on the US to be their military arm having to pick up the mission and conduct it.

    It’d be quite a thing to hear the president explicitly ask our European allies to act in support of people trying to bring down a state of terror, and say we’d provide only noncombat support.  I haven’t been paying close attention to the situation, but I haven’t heard from the Administration a defense of the NFZ idea even in principle.
    Of course, none of this touches on whether it’s likely that getting involved would change the outcome (and global perceptions of us) in a favorable enough way to make it worth the risk.

    • “our European allies to act in support of people trying to bring down a state of terror”

      Who are those people? What’s the nature of the next faction that will take power in Libya?

      It’s pretty clear by now that all the “flower power” narratives in Egypt were meaningless. The only thing we know about that situation now is that the Muslim Brotherhood wants a piece of the action so that it can share power with the military and probably eventually Islamisize the military. That’ll be wonderful.

      Is it now the “foreign policy” of the U.S. to get behind anyone who shows up to overthrow a regime without knowing who they are? Or is it just a black box that can’t be questioned until it is opened, ah, later?

      • Current US Policy:  Dictators friendly with the US are not as desirable as dictators who oppose the US and are willing to turn their streets red with blood to keep power.

      • What’s the nature of the next faction that will take power in Libya?

        There’s a lot wrapped up in the last sentence I wrote.

  • Why are we such a goody nation that we do not have the power to destroy all libiyan aircraft that are on the ground and then blame the russians .then do it a second time,proof of not just playin’.then tell “rebels”to be very good and “be safe”or we will smack you up.give me a problem with such a plan not including “racisim colonialism impishness”
    Q’daffy deserves no defence under any form of law.
     

  • McQ, you and i both know the 6Ps rule: Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance!  Establishing a NFZ is old hat on the Air Force side of the Pentagon but the creation of a NFZ has to have tow things:

    1.  You have to have assets available and at the ready.  It would probably take two Aircraft Carrier Wings to adequately establish a NFZ along with considerable AWACS and Tanker support in order to langthn station time capabilities.

    2.  You have to have the unanimous support of the International community.  All it takes is one outlaw nation in the region with some military air capability to decide they want to fly around in your NFZ and all bets are off.

    I would imagine #2 is the sticking point right now along with Obama’s reticence to use military power in whatever the situation.  Hell, it took the O how many months to come up with some semblence of an Afghan strategy and that lasted less than 6 months before he went in the tank for another 6 months trying to figure out what kind of a surge he wanted.  The one thing the O-admin is good at is procrastination.

    • The one thing the O-admin is good at is procrastination.

      I wouldn’t say procrastination; I honestrly think that they don’t have a clue how to respond. It’s one thing to publicly say, “We will do X.” It’s quite another to put together a plan that has a reasonable chance of getting it done.

      • ” It’s quite another to put together a plan that has a reasonable chance of getting it done.”
        Recall, that didn’t stop the Carter administration after the hostages were taken in Iran.  Seriously, do you think this collection of ne’er do wells is REALLY better?  If anything, it’ll be worse if they come up with the plan on the Northeast side of the Potomac.

  • It’s not our battle. If the EU wants to step in, fine with me. If NATO wants to get involved, I’m fine with us providing logistics or even surveillance support. This isn’t the Warsaw Ghetto in 1944 where it was fairly clear who were the good/bad guys.