Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Continuing Observations about Campaign against Qadaffi

First, note my title.  I will be more blunt than government officials because I have little tolerance for deliberate ambiguity (I am great at inadvertent ambiguity) and because I have tenure.  This conflict is not going to end until Qadaffi is gone.  The only way to protect the civilian population for any length of time is to get rid of Q, as he has no credibility and the demands are incompatible.  The rebels want him gone, and he does not want to go.  Not so divisible.

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.  
Any other thoughts why the less aggressive, more restricted countries are joining the action?

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.


Francois said...

I was speaking with a fellow student about Lybia a couple days ago, both of us having taken your class last semester, and said: "I bet Prof. Saideman would have wanted to teach his class this semester". (If this can be any comforting, I must say that reading news articles is so much more thrilling with insight from POLI 244 if you're really into IR. So as far as I'm concerned, I can only praise this course for I realize how much I've learned).

I would have a couple questions about the situation in Lybia.

First, a BBC article was announcing this morning that Obama wished to cede control "in a matter of days". To what extent is this realisitc? The pilot from the crashed F-15 was quickly thanked by locals for his participation in the air strikes
. I feel like:
- There is no direct opposition to US intervention insofar as it is seen as a collaborative endeavour
- Although UN disapproval hasn't meant much in 2003, US attacks are perceived as legitimate by the UNSC
- It's the first time Obama is actually capable of doing something which raises significant and widespread support, especially since the Republicans took over the Chamber
I might be critically wrong, but I don't think the US will and should cede control to a EU country.

Second, why exactly is NATO reluctant to fully taking over? Okay, there are French and Turkish caveats, also German, as well as Russian, Chinese and Ugandan oppposition . Why is it that, 12 years ago, NATO chose to intervene in the Kosovo War in a seemingly automatic way but now fails to clearly assume its role? I'm aware that there may be different caveats, that there were different kins involved in the conflict. But aren't these two cases essentially those of a government striking at its own civilians?

Finally, I was watching the William Hague interview on the BBC this morning. He was bluntly saying that the UK wouldn't be interested in interfering with the process of electing a successor in the event that Qadaffi would step down from power. An open question: what is the prospect of further NATO and/or US-France-Britain intervention in the aftermath of the unrest? Can the international community trust a group of rebels, in the event that they would be victrious, to implement a democraacy? I think there may be a "long-term consequences" aspect to be considered by the coalition countries.

Fortunately your blog compensates for the bad timing of events in relation with the IR course!


Chris C. said...

The hypocrisy on this from the Arab world and China/Russia/etc. is breathtaking. They're calling for "peaceful self-determination," which in reality means "let Qadaffi slaughter like we do." Even the Beirut Daily Star picked up on this: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&article_id=126294&categ_id=17#axzz1HMMwk24p

Turkey's position is equally absurd- they claim they will "never point a gun at the Libyan people," but they're more than happy to let Qadaffi do the same. So much for Turkey's "leadership" potential.

Are these countries mentally retarded/irrationally stupid or cynically backstabbing the West to advance their own domestic interests? I wish it were as simple as the former, but I suspect the latter. Disgusting.

Steve Saideman said...

I will respond to your questions later. Thanks for posting. Need to think and get back to you.