Saturday, March 26, 2011

Canadians, French, Americans, and Libyans? Oh My!

Yesterday was a big day for the international dynamics of the Libyan Civil War.*  I was able to track but not blog about it since I was at a workshop on "Nationalisms and War."  Mostly the focus was on war among countries, not within, but, of course, you can imagine there was more than a little overlap between on-going events and the conference.  My paper, that I am presenting later today, relates to much of what is going on.  Or at least I would like to think so.
    * The usual definition of a civil war involves a certain number of battle deaths, with both sides inflicting a significant number, to distinguish from a mass killing.  It appears to me that we are over the usual 1k threshold of killed in action, with the question remaining whether the rebels have done significant damage to the government. 
    I only have a bit of time before I have to drive back downtown for the second day of the workshop, so here are my quick thoughts about the latest news (and how my current book project with David Auerswald is quite relevant):
    • Starting with Canada, the striking thing is that the government fell to a confidence motion at exactly the same time that a Canadian general was chosen to lead the new NATO mission.  Why a Canadian? Because the Turks are upset at the Brits, apparently.  
      • The Canadians are a good compromise for Turkey and France, who are on opposite sides of the arguments about how much force to use for what.  Leadership of key posts for NATO missions usually depends in part on how much does the country contribute.  
      • The exercise of allotting such slots is called flags-to-post, and that was one of the things I tracked during my Joint Staff days.  In Afghanistan, this exercise is not just about total numbers (or the Germans would have heaps of command positions) but a more complex calculation as certain kinds of units have different point values.  We learned this during our research last month (such a long time ago) at the various NATO HQs in Belgium and the Netherlands. 
      • What is abundantly clear here is that the choice of a Canadian was very political and not very related to how much Canada is deploying to the effort.  However, this might explain in part why Canada sent a couple of maritime patrol planes in addition to the six F-16's--that the dis-proportionality of the commitment to the leadership role would appear to be less severe.
      • Of course, that it is a Quebecker, LTG Charles Bouchard, does not hurt the Conservatives at a time when an election is nigh.  I am not saying that this particular general was chosen by the Canadians (because he was already in place at the relevant NATO HQ in Naples), but that the Tories might have been more willing to have the Canadians be more visible in part because it would have some secondary effects back home in Quebec.  Just speculation, but that is what I am paid to do.  Or not so much since I don't get paid to blog.
      • Good piece here showing that the Canadians are not thinking that seriously about what this will involve.   Why should they be any different?
      • Updated: For a good perspective on Canada and this mission, see Stephanie Calvin's duck post.

    • Those wacky French.  Every time we seem to get an agreement for NATO to take the command and control, Sarkozy picks at the scabs covering the disagreements.  Why?  Could be grand-standing since elections are nigh there, too.  Or it could be because this is the opportunity the French have been waiting for, given their deep animus towards Qaddafi due to this support for terrorism against French and his many interventions against Chad (found the link, thanks to Mathew Shugart).
    • Very small coalition, compared to the past.  Yes, but (a) it is not over yet; (b) once NATO gets involved, the number may increase fairly quickly; (c) the number in Afghanistan counts lots of micro-delegations.  Still, the point that Obama spent his political capital on getting the Arab League and the UN to endorse the mission and then on getting NATO to take over, rather than getting more countries involved is note-worthy.  Demonstrates O's priorities.  Is this wrong?  Depends on how you feel about the optics of the US jumping into another Middle East war without Arab support?  Depends on whether having a symbolically large coalition is more or less legitimate than having an endorsed one with the Americans trying to be in the background.  I think Obama has the right idea here, although it makes him an easy target back home.  You can call that dithering, but I think it takes more guts than jumping up and down and drawing lots of attention to oneself.
    •  What lessons can be drawn by other dictators down the road?  Don't give up your nukes and nuclear programs.  This is not the only difference between Iran and Libya, but it is an obvious one.
    • What will emerge from Libya?  According to this summary of contemporary social science, not a democracy.  Sure and we should be careful about our expectations.  But, I am pretty sure that the effort is not to democratize Libya, just as the US did not invade Iraq to democratize Iraq, but to get rid of Hussein.  I am pretty sure that studies show that intervention can remove leaders, and I wish I had the time to cite the studies that show that one-sided interventions do shorten civil wars.  The key about intervention is not whether it exists but whether it is one sided or on both sides (or more than two sides, if it is a multi-sided conflict like Bosnia).  If the point of the exercise is to give the rebels a chance and limit the risks of a mass killing by Qadaffi, then we can use a different yard-stick (meter-stick? ah... metric). 
      • Lots of good questions raised here about the mission, including the rebels that we are supporting.  Regardless of the language of the resolutions, regime change is definitely the goal here.  Nobody wants Qaddafi to stick around.  And it is hard to imagine a peace with him in place.  Any denial that regime change is not the goal is just an effort not to look like GW Bush.
    I am late for my conference.  Post your thoughts and I will try to update during the day or tonight.

    1 comment:

    Kindred Winecoff said...

    Steve -

    I rounded up some of the lit on third-party interventions and the outcome/duration of civil wars at IPE@UNC. This isn't my area of expertise, so it might not be complete, but as a starting point I think it will suffice.

    I agree with you that Walt has a bunch of wrong assumptions: this isn't about democracy, it's about Gaddafi.