Second, the French are often seen as obstacles, but remember this: overflying France is not a problem this time. The US and UK are flying missions from British bases, and this is much easier when France does not mind (note my newer post backtracks on my glowing review of France).
Third, we have some new entrants that we should note: Belgium and Spain. However, as the Italian example suggests (where it flies but is not supposed to shoot), we don't really know yet if they are following different rules of engagement than the others. Still notable that the paralyzed Belgian government can deploy pretty quickly.
Fourth, Italy has an aircraft carrier? Really? News to me. Eight harriers and a bunch of helos. Not too shabby, but given typical politically imposed restrictions (caveats), not clear what it will add to the mix.
The obvious contrast is between how eager some countries seem to be to join in on this mission when compared to their reluctance to do heavy lifting in Afghanistan. A couple of possible reasons are aversions:
- European countries act with more alacrity when they face the risk of refugee flows to their countries. Yep, xenophobia might not just serve as a brake on irredentism, but it might also foster intervention when the alternative of doing nothing is associated with potentially significant influxes of refugees.
- Other than distance, another difference between Libya and Afghanistan is the issue of likely casualties. Yes, we just lost one F-15, but it is not likely that participants in the mission will be hit with significant casualties. Deploying, say, six planes means that only 6 or 12 air-folks* are at risk. There is not that much risk of getting shot down especially when compared to the risks of operating in southern or eastern Afghanistan. Crashes, also, do happen, but it seems like the search and rescue assets have been put into place. So, the casualty aversion of governments, even coalition governments, is mitigated by the type of deployment.
Finally, don't expect US command and control to be turned over to NATO soon. Lots of arguments happening in Brussels, with various actors not that interested in a new NATO mission. France is not interested because they argue that the Arab League is opposed. But then again, the League is also opposed to the more aggressive forms of this campaign beyond the No Fly Zone and the French were the first ones to attack tanks (and these tanks did not have wings). Germany is not interested because it is tired of being seen as a rations consumer rather a burden bearer. Turkey is opposed both because it was slighted and because it does not want offensive ops against a Muslim country. Any one of these folks can essentially block a NATO decision.
Times like these make me wish I was teaching Intro to IR this semester.