Sunday, March 27, 2011

Not a One Hit Wonder

Easy to confuse the NAC with the Knack.  The North Atlantic Council is the decision-making body of NATO.  And it has finally (or quickly, depending on expectations) agreed that NATO will take command of all of the various missions above and near Libya: Humanitarian relief, Arms Embargo, No Fly Zone and Protection of Civilians.  The funny thing is that the key point of tension was the last--protection of civilians--because it is the piece that is the most risky and controversial.  Protecting civvies in this case means air strikes on Libya's forces, including command and control (which can include the phone in Qaddafi's hand).

So, this makes it easier for NATO since now the same folks coordinating the airplanes doing the embargo and the NFZ can also coordinate the air strikes.  This was probably already happening, using American assets, but now there is less need to finesse things.

Of course, this process does not address every issue.  Three stand out right now:
  1. Not every NATO country will participate.  Just because the NAC decided to do something does not obligate the members to chip in.  We knew that long before Afghanistan, but it has been abundantly clear.
  2. Not every participant will do everything.  This is a mission that is going to be chock full of caveats: some countries will only contribute to the embargo, others will contribute to the NFZ and only a subset will contribute to the civvie protection (much overlap with those willing to do offensive ops in Afghanistan is my guess).  
  3. What does protection of civilians require/imply?  So far, dropping bombs on government tanks, artillery, logistics, bases, and such.  But what about dealing with snipers?  The traditional weapon against a sniper is .... another sniper.  No doubt that the Special Forces of the various NATO members can outshoot the Libyans, but they would have to be on the ground somewhere.  This is really the biggest question--what next to do in support of the civilians/rebels?  And that is before we think about the endgame.

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