Tuesday, March 22, 2011

NATO Finesses While Libya Burns? Updated

NATO has decided to enforce an arms embargo on the seas and in the air near Libya.  I hadn't realized that arms were flowing to Qadaffi in any significant way.  This seems more to be a way to get NATO's foot in the door, coordinating part of the effort, while not going all the way. 
"At the same time, NATO has completed plans to help enforce the no-fly zone -- to bring our contribution,  if needed,  in a clearly defined manner, to the broad international effort to protect the people of Libya from the violence of the Gaddafi regime"
What does this mean?  That NATO has not reached consensus on actually taking over the NFZ or its "ancillary activities" of plinking tanks.  Yes, multilateral warfare is hard, as my book in progress asserts and as Sarah Kreps demonstrates quite well in her new tome. Again, the likely suspects are France (despite Sarkozy's greater enthusiasm for NATO than previous French leaders), Germany (Merkl just lost her Minister of Defense to plagiarism and spent most of the past several years ducking Afghanistan when she could), Italy (which suddenly realized it was the focal point as THE base of operations), and Turkey (due to its position in the Middle East).

This does not mean that NATO will not eventually sign off on the NFZ mission, but tricky bargaining is occurring in Brussels this week as the competing demands must be finessed. One of the interesting things here is that France and the UK were pretty willing to go ahead without crossing all the T's and dotting all the I's.  They knew that it would take a while to get a NATO consensus and went ahead without it.  Very striking.

The other thing that is quite notable is how eager the US is to pass on leadership to someone else.  Anyone else.  This is a huge change from the traditional American caveat that Americans must command multilateral ops so that American units in the operation are ultimately led by an American.  I don't think this is why Congress is in a conniption over this, but it could become an issue.

UPDATE:  Another foreignpolicy.com (they have the best set of bloggers) blogger, Josh Rogin, has updated stuff on NATO.   In short, Germans and French are now the key obstacles to a NATO lead, with the Turks relenting, although not thrilled.  It took a Presidential call, which is also the final step in the NATO force generation process after begging at higher and higher levels fails to work.  The immediate impact as been that Norway has deployed planes but will not fly them.  My guess is that Turkey would not participate much in any NATO mission except at or over the Med and probably not even that.

The strangest part of this is the French excuse for its opposition--that the Arab community would not want a NATO-led op, but the French were the first to go way outside the original intent of the No Fly Zone by bombing Libyan tanks.  Given that the Arab League and UN resolutions seemed to permit NFZ and actions in support of the NFZ (bombing airfields and air defense sites) but not necessarily tank-killing, it seems strange that France is trying to seize the banner of being the most sympathetic to the Arabs.  Perhaps that would seem a bit more, ahem, genuine, if Sarkozy's government was a bit less hostile to Muslims at home. 

Inevitably more to follow.


MSS said...

Why would the UN resolution not necessarily authorize tank-killing?

"All necessary measures" and protection of civilians would seem pretty clearly to authorize destroying tanks that were advancing on a rebel-held city.

What am I missing here?

Steve Saideman said...

I may have mis-read the resolution, but the popular discussion around the resolution was about a No Fly Zone, not a no-drive zone. I have tried to find the actual Arab League resolution but google is failing me.

Clearly the early French strike on tanks was more surprising than the US/UK effort to take down the air defenses.