Free Markets, Free People

Libya


Libya: The illegal “days, not weeks” war is in its third month

And mission creep continues apace because, as most military experts would have told you, you can’t change a government with a “no-fly zone” and only airpower.

So?  So …

French and British officials said this week that they were sending more than a dozen attack helicopters to allow for more precise ground attacks, particularly around Misurata, where loyalist forces continue to fire mortars and artillery despite rebel gains and heavy air attacks.

With no troops on the ground, NATO planners and pilots acknowledge that they often cannot pinpoint the shifting battle lines in cities like Misurata. “The front lines are more scattered,” said Col. L. S. Kjoeller, who commands four Danish F-16s flying eight daily strike missions from Sigonella air base in Sicily.

Unsaid in those two paragraphs, but reported elsewhere, are that groups of special operations types will be inserted to do targeting for the helicopter attack assets.  Yes, “boots on the ground”.

And why is this supposed war of days taking months if not longer?  Well, they obviously underestimated their foe and overestimated their capabilities.  Also, they planned for one mission and tried to execute another (no-fly and regime change) and don’t have the assets necessary to accomplish that real mission).  We’re now seeing them begin to understand that they may have bitten off more than they can chew – at least as they’re presently arrayed.

Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the overall commander of NATO forces in the Mediterranean, said from his office in Naples that the allied mission has largely achieved its goal of protecting civilians, especially in eastern Libya, and has seriously damaged the Libyan military.

“Qaddafi will never be able to turn a large army on his people again, because it’s gone,” said Admiral Locklear, noting that the air campaign has wiped out more than half of Libya’s ammunition stockpiles and cut off most supply lines to forces in the field.

But the admiral acknowledged Colonel Qaddafi’s resiliency, and said that without sustained political and economic pressure as well, “the military piece will take a very long time.”

Not really  – if its mission is to establish and enforce a no-fly zone as we were told in the beginning.  And as is obvious, Adm. Locklear certainly isn’t talking days or weeks anymore.  He’s talking months and possibly longer.   Meanwhile, British papers are reporting the war of “days not weeks”, that their present visiting guest talked them into, is in the $1 billion to 1.5 billion pound range – a cost the debt ridden country can ill afford.  Makes you wonder how much longer they’re willing to wage it (even as they escalate their presence with attack helicopters).

Nice mess you’ve got there Mr. Obama.  So much for being against “dumb wars”,  huh?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Obama’s soon-to-be illegal war–where’s the outrage?

I think we all know what would be the number one story today had we been this close to having this happen on the last president’s watch.

At issue: The 1973 War Powers Act, which says if the president does not get congressional authorization 60 days after military action, the mission must stop within 30 days.

The president formally notified Congress about the mission in Libya with a letter on March 21, which makes Friday the 60-day deadline.

See, here’s how this works … Congress makes the laws and the President signs them into being.  Everyone is obliged to follow them.  And that includes the President.  However, that’s not the case, or so it seems, with Libya.  Today is the last day of the 60 grace period for the President to get Congressional authorization and there has been no move to accomplish that.  Apparently the administration believes they’re above the law.

The irony, of course, is that it was Mr. Bush who was continually accused of waging an illegal war.  Yet it has been the last two Democratic presidents who are guilty of doing so:

But it is virtually unprecedented for a president to continue a mission beyond 60 days without a resolution from Congress.

"Make no mistake: Obama is breaking new ground, moving decisively beyond his predecessors," Yale law professors Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathaway wrote this week in the Washington Post.

The only thing that comes close is President Clinton’s military effort in Kosovo.

He failed to get congressional approval before the 60-day deadline was up. His administration argued that Congress had effectively authorized the mission by approving money for it, and the Kosovo conflict lasted 78 days.

The Obama administration doesn’t have that option with Libya, because the Pentagon is using existing money. Congress never specifically funded the mission.

Now, the administration is trying to figure out what to do.

“Now?”  Now the administration is “trying to figure out what to do”?   And “what to do” is fairly straight forward – seek congressional approval for the continuation of the “kinetic event” or whatever it is we’re calling it this week, or stop our involvement.

Now.

More irony:

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-California, tells CNN he believes Obama is trying to "bring democracy to Libya while shredding the Constitution of the United States."

"He cannot continue what he is doing in Libya without congressional authorization. When a president defiantly violates the law, that really undercuts our efforts to urge other countries to have the rule of law," Sherman said.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, concurs.

"You could say, ‘Well, we have a good president, he’ll do the right thing.’ Well, someday you may have a president who does the wrong thing, and that’s why you have rules, because you can never count on people being good people," Paul told CNN.

Indeed.  The process and rules are only there for the little people I guess.  The President appears to believe he is above the law.

Finally, where’s the Congressional leadership on this?  Why isn’t Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid both banging the drum loudly and persistently while calling the president “incompetent” ?  After all, only an incompetent would just now be trying to figure out what to do, no?  And tomorrow will they declare the war “illegal” like it actually will be?

And where are McConnell and Boehner? 

Time to elevate this and get a little bit of a firestorm going boys.  If it were your side, you can trust that Pelosi and Reid wouldn’t be dawdling in their offices, they’d be attacking the lawlessness of the presidency.

Where are you, Congressional “leaders?”

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


PPP–Libya hurting Obama

Interesting poll especially because the US and Obama are ‘leading from behind’ in Libya and don’t have a prominent role tactically.  But that isn’t changing the fact that the majority of the public, according to this PPP poll, don’t support even that role:

Our most recent national poll found that only 27% of Americans supported the military intervention in Libya to 40% who were opposed and 33% who had no opinion. Democrats only narrowly stand behind the President in supporting the action in Libya, 31/28. Meanwhile Republicans (21/51) and independents (29/42) are considerably more unified in their opposition. [emphasis mine]

As I’ve mentioned many times, the group I always zero in on in any political poll are independents. They are the swing vote in this country.  The 13 point difference would say that on the whole Indies are not happy with the venture.   Somewhat surprisingly, Obama only enjoys very narrow support from Democrats – 3 points.

So all-in-all, Libya is a loser politically.

PPP makes an issue about American’s “not knowing” where Libya is, but still not liking it:

Libya is definitely proving to be a political loser for Obama which is interesting because only a little more than half of Americans, 58%, can actually correctly identify that it’s in northern Africa. 27% think that it’s in the Middle East, 4% think it’s in South Asia, 2% think it’s in South America, and 9% don’t offer an opinion. Voters may not be terribly informed when it comes to Libya but they know they don’t like what they’re seeing.

I take a little exception to that – Libya has and can be considered a part of the Middle East.  As a commenter on their site points out, it has been considered a part of the ME for decades:

Secretary of State John Foster Dulles defined the Middle East as "the area lying between and including Libya on the west and Pakistan on the east, Syria and Iraq on the North and the Arabian peninsula to the south, plus the Sudan and Ethiopia."

So in reality 85% of those who were polled were correct.  It is in N. Africa and is considered a part of the ME.  As for the other 15% – public school scholars I assume.

Finally, even though Libya is unpopular, it may not be much of a game changer in terms of votes:

Libya doesn’t seem likely to be a big vote shifter next year- 52% of voters say it won’t make a difference in their decision on whether to support Obama for reelection or not. But for the voters who do say it could be a game change it’s a negative- 31% say what’s going on in Libya right now make them less likely to vote for Obama compared to only 17% who say it makes them more likely to vote for him.

Libya is one more negative to add to the pile.

As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, Obama has to do something he’s never done before – run on an actual record.  Libya becomes another negative to add to that record. 

~McQ


Libya–about that UN mission …

You probably remember it – it was to have a coalition of UN members establish a no-fly zone to keep the Libyan government under Gadhafi from using aircraft to kill civilians.  Right?  Then it was to hit tanks and artillery that  were being used to kill (or endanger) civilians.

And what did Gadhafi’s forces do?  Adapted.  Made it much more difficult to do by using similar vehicles as the rebels and by moving into the urban areas.

So, now where are we?  Well, NATO’s having a bit of a problem.  In fact, NATO has discovered what any good infantryman could have told them:

NATO Brig. Gen. Mark van Uhm said his forces have destroyed more than 40 tanks and several armored personnel carriers in Misrata. However, there’s always concern of inadvertently harming civilians in such airstrikes, he said.

"There is a limit to what can be achieved by airpower to stop fighting in a city," said van Uhm.

Ya think? I have to wonder what they expected Gadhafi’s forces to do.

So, what’s a defensive alliance chartered to come to each others defense in case another members is attacked to do?  Oh, here’s a good idea:

“We need a force from NATO or the United Nations on the ground now,” committee member Nouri Abdullah Abdulati told reporters Tuesday.

Abdulati said that the Judicial Committee’s signed request had been sent to the Transitional National Council in Benghazi, the de facto capital of the opposition-controlled east, but that no reply had been received. The council, the only link between Misurata and NATO commanders, has said that it does not want foreign troops in Libya.

“We did not accept any foreign soldiers on our land. But that was before we faced the crimes of Gaddafi,” Abdulati said Tuesday. “We are asking on the basis of humanitarian and Islamic principles for someone to come and stop the killing. The whole Arab world is calling for the intervention of the West for the first time in history.”

What a deal.  But here’s my question – where’s the Arab League?  Surely they could send in soldiers.   In the past they were able to whip up any number of Arab forces to attack Israel.  What, do “rebel” Libyans fear them more than the West?   Is this a case where the West is actually the lesser of two evils?

Of course now, if the West and NATO don’t respond it will be because the West chose to desert these people and let them die.   And if they do help, it will only be a matter of time before the same people demanding their presence to save their bacon are demanding the infidel soldiers quit their country post haste.

In the meantime, the UK is actually considering sending in troops to escort humanitarian relief convoys to Misurata.  What happens when Gadhafi forces pop one of them?

Yeah, this is looking much like a “days not weeks” campaign.

Oh, one other little quote that caught my eye:

Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola, chairman of NATO’s military committee, said that even though the military alliance’s operations have done "quite significant damage" to the Libyan regime’s heavy weaponry, what Gadhafi has left is "still considerable."

Asked if more airpower is needed, Di Paola said any "significantly additional" allied contribution would be welcome.

Any question as to what ally Di Paola is referring?

~McQ


Egypt woos US foes

Egypt continues to make more and more moves indicating that it desires to distance itself from the US and that more instability in the region will probably result from its diplomatic moves.

After decades of no relations with certain countries in the region, with the full approval of the US (and one would assume the lack of such relations would be in the best interest of the US and peace in the region), Egypt has now decided to change that course.  They tie to moves to regaining their regional prestige:

Iran and Egypt’s new government signaled Monday they were moving quickly to thaw decades of frosty relations, worrying the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia that the overtures could upset the Mideast’s fragile balance of power.

Iran said it appointed an ambassador to Egypt for the first time since the two sides froze diplomatic relations more than three decades ago, the website of the Iranian government’s official English-language channel, Press TV, reported late Monday.

Also Monday, officials at Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that new foreign minister Nabil Elaraby is considering a visit to the Gaza Strip—an area controlled by Hamas, a militant Palestinian Islamist group backed by Tehran and until now shunned by Cairo.

It would be pretty hard not to see where this could lead. 

Additionally, Egypt is reaching out to Syria:

Egypt’s outreach has also extended to Syria, a close ally of Iran. In early March, Egypt’s new intelligence chief, Murad Muwafi, chose Syria for his first foreign trip.

The result of our “hey, Hosni, get out of town” policy?

Amr Moussa, the former Secretary General of the Arab league, owes his front-runner status in Egyptian presidential elections later this year to his forceful statements against Israel when he was Egypt’s foreign minister during the 1990s. Islamist groups in particular have been empowered by Egypt’s abrupt shift to democracy, and analysts expect that Egypt’s next government will have to answer to growing calls that it break with U.S. foreign-policy objectives.

Some Islamist political voices within Egypt have already begun their own sort of diplomacy. Magdi Hussein, the chairman of the Islamist Al Amal (Labor) Party, met with Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi earlier this week in Tehran. Both sides encouraged a quickening of the diplomatic thaw between the two countries.

Egypt appears to be following a foreign relations pattern set by Turkey in the past decade—a strong American ally whose foreign policy has nevertheless decoupled from American interests. Regardless of its final position on Iran, the country is likely to be significantly less beholden to U.S. interests, American officials said, if only because Egypt was such a reliable ally under Mr. Mubarak.

"It’s hard to imagine a change that would improve on what we had" with the previous Egyptian regime, one U.S. official said.

If there’s a “Doomsday clock” for Middle East war, it is quickly moving toward 1 minute to midnight.

Meanwhile in Libya, the “days, not weeks” war enters its 2nd month with no resolution in sight.

~McQ


Libyan update

Not much new to report – stalemate continues.  However what we seem to be finally learning is that the so-called “rebels” aren’t organized enough to do much of anything to force the situation:

Too little is known about Libya’s rebels and they remain too fragmented for the United States to get seriously involved in organizing or training them, let alone arming them, U.S. and European officials say.

U.S. and allied intelligence agencies believe NATO’s no-fly zone and air strikes will be effective in stopping Muammar Gaddafi’s forces from killing civilians and dislodging rebels from strongholds like Benghazi, the officials say.

But the more the intelligence agencies learn about rebel forces, the more they appear to be hopelessly disorganized and incapable of coalescing in the foreseeable future.

However, that hasn’t stopped the rebels from asking for a $2 billion dollar loan from the West.  They’re never too disorganized to demand money, are they?  Hey, this is the Arab League’s baby – let them front any loans.  Oh, and check out this photo for a little picture of the reality we’re talking about.

Meanwhile, NATO could use a few more aircraft:

Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has told a foreign ministers’ summit the alliance needs "a few more" aircraft for its mission in Libya.

Mr Rasmussen said he had received no offers from any ally at the meeting in Berlin to supply the extra warplanes, but he remained hopeful.

I’m sure he does.  Of course, this situation has little if anything to do with the stated mission of NATO (a defensive pact), but it is an organization in search of a mission.   One of the reasons it has to beg for other participants is there’s nothing binding about war’s of choice on NATO members and, as you might expect, a good number of them ore sitting this one out.

Finally, our leaders fight back with a NYT editorial.  Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy have an op/ed there addressing Libya.  This particular paragraph caught my eye:

We must never forget the reasons why the international community was obliged to act in the first place. As Libya descended into chaos with Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi attacking his own people, the Arab League called for action. The Libyan opposition called for help. And the people of Libya looked to the world in their hour of need. In an historic resolution, the United Nations Security Council authorized all necessary measures to protect the people of Libya from the attacks upon them. By responding immediately, our countries, together with an international coalition, halted the advance of Qaddafi’s forces and prevented the bloodbath that he had promised to inflict upon the citizens of the besieged city of Benghazi.

Tens of thousands of lives have been protected.

I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but think “jobs created and saved” when I read all of that monkey poo.

Meanwhile in Syria, they’re issuing instructions not to kill over 20 protesters a day because apparently that’s a threshold they know the great protectors of certain civilians will ignore.  Besides, some Democrats think Assad is a reformer, and don’t forget, he hasn’t used airplanes on the protesters – yet.

~McQ


Meanwhile in Libya …

As we watch the politicians dance around about government shut down and play their political games, a little aside for the quickly forgotten war in Libya.

This week NATO managed to take out 13 more … rebels.  Apparently NATO didn’t know the rebs planned on using some captured tanks and paid the price.

That’s led to a little friction between NATO and the rebs:

Outside Ajdabiya, rebel fighters slapped peach-colored paint on their vehicles to try to distinguish from the pro-Qaddafi units.

"We are painting the trucks so NATO won’t hit us," said Salam Salim, a 29-year-old rebel militiaman.

Tensions between the rebels and NATO were flaring even before the latest accident, with the fighters criticizing the alliance for doing too little to help them.

A NATO official, meanwhile, said there is growing frustration with the rebels’ perception that NATO is acting as their proxy air force. The U.N. mandate calls only for international air power to enforce a no-fly zone and prevent attacks on civilians — although Qaddafi’s ground forces remain a primary target.

"We’re trying to get messages back to them about what we’re doing and what we’re trying to achieve," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity under standing NATO regulations.

I can just see Gahdafi’s men slapping peach paint on their vehicles now.

Meanwhile, the promised “no boots on the ground?”   Not so firm apparently:

The United States may consider sending troops into Libya with a possible international ground force that could aid the rebels, according to the general who led the military mission until NATO took over.

Army Gen. Carter Ham also told lawmakers Thursday that added American participation would not be ideal, and ground troops could erode the international coalition and make it more difficult to get Arab support for operations in Libya.

Ham said the operation was largely stalemated now and was more likely to remain that way since America has transferred control to NATO.

He said NATO has done an effective job in an increasingly complex combat situation. But he noted that, in a new tactic, Muammar Qaddafi’s forces are making airstrikes more difficult by staging military forces and vehicles near civilian areas such as schools and mosques.

Adaptation.

But back to the point – why would we consider “sending troops into Libya?”  I mean we’re there to enforce a no-fly zone and protect civvies, right?

Only one reason to even be considering troops on the ground and that is the real end result desired – regime change- doesn’t look like it will happen without them. 

Like I said before, “mission creep”.

Worth noting – SecDef Gates said there’d be no US boots on the ground “as long as I’m in this job.”  He may be leaving sooner than we think.

~McQ


War of choice getting in the way of Obama’s preferred message?

Interesting story from Glenn Thrush at POLITICO. And, of course, it is about pure politics.   It seems that Obama’s decision to go to war with Libya has caused a distraction from the most pressing domestic issue – the economy.  And just when some half-way decent news on unemployment is evident.

But in the view of his closest allies, Libya is drowning out his attempts to portray himself as an economic commander-in-chief fighting a series of new threats to the fragile U.S. recovery, especially the devastating and politically poisonous rise in gas prices.

The most recent example: On Friday, press secretary Jay Carney hoped to spend quality time with the White House press corps discussing an upbeat March employment report showing the economy added 216,000 jobs, outpacing analysts’ estimates.

But he was asked a grand total of two questions about the report. He fielded 16 about Libya and at one point had to sneak in a plug for the positive job numbers when a reporter asked a question about budget negotiations with Congress.

“Don’t tell me Libya is not a distraction,” said Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Dealing with a military operation of this complexity, with this many moving parts, takes an enormous amount of the president’s time. We’re talking about hours and hours a day dealing with his national security staff. … It has an impact on everything else.”

Now obviously, it we have to go to war for a good reason – an actual imminent danger or threat to our national security – then you don’t worry about how it will effect the political agenda.  You do your duty as CiC.  In fact, a President can normally expect it to help him politically – to get a pretty good bump in the polls – as the nation comes together behind them.

But when the war is perceived as a “war of choice” or a “dumb war”, such a bump may not be forthcoming – as in the case of the war against Libya:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows 37% give the president good or excellent ratings on his handling of national security issues. Slightly more voters (40%) say the president is doing a poor job when it comes to national security.

Rasmussen isn’t the only polling service to have those numbers:

Just 39 percent of Americans think Obama has clear goals in Libya, while 50 percent think he doesn’t, according to poll results released Monday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

Just 47 percent of Americans support the U.S. airstrikes, while 36 percent don’t and 17 percent don’t know, according to the Pew poll.

The Gallup Poll found similar results, the lowest level of initial support for a U.S. military action in at least three decades, and the first time in 10 interventions dating to the 1983 invasion of Grenada that a majority of Americans didn’t support the action at the onset.

Translation?   This is a political problem of Obama’s own making.  And on the eve of launching his re-election campaign to boot.  Not smart politics – not smart at all.  He’s literally “created” a story by his decision to wage a war of choice that will dominate the news and any other message he tries to spin.  What is clear is that despite the announced hand-over or pullback in US participation, the press continues to treat it like it should be treated – a war instigated and started by the US (and others) and continuing to have US participation whatever the level.

And we’re starting to hear about how overtaxed our coalition partners are now.  The UK for example,.  Says the head of the RAF:

With the RAF playing an important role in Libya, where bombers, fighter jets and surveillance aircraft have all been involved over the past fortnight, he admitted the service was now stretched to the limit.

[Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen] Dalton, 57, said the RAF was planning to continue operations over Libya for at least six months. His assumption is that planes will be needed "for a number of months rather than a number of days or weeks".

Did you catch that last sentence?  Months instead of weeks.  So we can expect to see this remain in the news for some time and we can most likely expect to see more and more of the coalition members whining about their level of participation and attempting to get a higher level of US participation.  Already, this weekend, the US flew more sorties in the NFZ than previously planned.

So here you have a classic example of not only a dumb war, but dumb politics.  That’s usually what happens when you make snap-decisions without any planning while apparently completely underestimating the reaction of the American people.

Not that anyone on the left will admit that or anything.

~McQ


10 Rebels killed in coalition air strike

So far the “No-Fly Zone” is going swimmingly.  Yesterday we had a report of 40 civilians killed in coalition air strikes in Tripoli (remember, the coalition’s mission is to protect civilians) and today we learn that the coalition managed to kill 10 rebels in a strike yesterday (they’re supposedly helping the rebels, remember?).

Fog of war?  Eh, yes and no.  Mostly just a piss poor war.  As I’ve mentioned before, any competent army will learn to adapt and overcome when possible and that’s apparently what pro-Gadhafi forces are doing.

First they went to vehicles similar to the rebels making it very hard to sort out who is who on the ground.   Then they took it a step further, according to Reuters:

A Western coalition air strike hit a group of rebels on the eastern outskirts of Brega late on Friday, killing at least 10 of them, rebel fighters at the scene said on Saturday.

A Reuters correspondent saw the burned out husks of at least four vehicles including an ambulance by the side of the road near the eastern entrance to the oil town.

Men prayed at freshly dug graves covered by the rebel red, black and green flag nearby.

"Some of Gaddafi’s forces sneaked in among the rebels and fired anti-aircraft guns in the air," said rebel fighter Mustafa Ali Omar. "After that the NATO forces came and bombed them."

Rebel fighters at the scene said as many as 14 people may have died in the bombing, which they said happened around 10 p.m. local time (2000 GMT)

Wonderful.

Meanwhile it appears the possible, or should I say anticipated end state may be – stalemate?  Really?   That’s what all this effort is about?

U.S. officials are becoming increasingly resigned to the possibility of a protracted stalemate in Libya, with rebels retaining control of the eastern half of the divided country but lacking the muscle to drive Moammar Gaddafi from power.

Such a deadlock — perhaps backed by a formal cease-fire agreement — could help ensure the safety of Libyan civilians caught in the crossfire between the warring sides. But it could also dramatically expand the financial and military commitments by the United States and allied countries that have intervened in the six-week-old conflict, according to U.S. officials familiar with planning for the Libyan operation.

Ya think?  That’s always a sign of a well thought out, well planned strategy, isn’t it?

What you’re talking about then is a semi-permanent NFZ, because immediately upon its withdrawal, Benghazi would be under siege again.

What a great solution, no?  Split the country, prop up and support some government in the east (an area that produced 20% of the suicide bombers for Iraq and  has admitted jihadis in the governing councils and rebel fighters) and then fly cover for the next, oh, 10 years or so?

Brilliant.

~McQ


Quote of the Day – Wile E. Coyote edition

The perfect Libya analogy via Mark Goldblatt:

Why do I have a sinking feeling that expecting the Libyan rebels to overthrow Qaddafi is like expecting the Coyote to catch the Road Runner . . . and that we’re about to become the Acme Corporation?

Can’t improve on that (unless there’s a way to work Elmer Fudd into it).

~McQ