Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nuance and Expertise on Libya

I ain't got any of either on Libya, but these posts do:
  • Thinking about the endgame.  Who keeps the peace if Qaddafi falls? If no real boots on the ground (UN resolution almost prohibits any such effort, US will not engage in any such effort), minimizing unrest/violence/looting will be challenging.  Cannot train the locals if you are not on the ground. 
"Encouraging local capacity is thus more important than devising and importing elaborate solutions. The key lesson, Bodine concludes, is, "Wherever possible, work through existing institutions." Unfortunately, Libya has very few institutions at all. Outsiders might have to let the new rulers work out their own political problems in their own way, but nevertheless provide enormous amounts of technocratic help."
    • This does not sound good at all, but does provide a handy excuse for staying out of it.
  • Is the US doing a lot or a little?
"Adm. William E. Gortney, the director of the Pentagon’s joint staff, said Thursday that allied aircraft were already handling all the missions to enforce the no-flight zone and that United States planes were carrying out only half the ground strikes.  He said the Pentagon would mainly supply Awacs early-warning planes, refueling tankers and surveillance aircraft, while continuing to conduct some of the strikes." NYT
    •  Is some half? Sounds like the US is doing a lot of the heavy lifting, but not the patrolling of fighters near and above Libya.  So, the optics look like the Europeans are doing all of the work, but when folks say NATO is doing x, that does not leave the US out of the picture, since the US provides much of the "low density, high demand" assets listed above.
  • A war that might be coming in under budget?  Suppression of the Libyan defenses has been less costly than expected.  If no boots do go on the ground, this little war may not be that expensive to the US.  To the other folks, who are more strapped for cash?  This, of course, conflicts slightly with the previous point.  Hmmm.
  • Is is not about us?  Interesting post that suggests that the American obsession about its role might just be a bit, ahem, narcissistic and not necessarily productive.  I especially like the part challenging the legacy of the Powell doctrine: "while in general, it's probably a good idea for a president to explain his or her war goals to the public, too rigid an adherence to the decisive force/clear mission/clear exit strategy set of parameters can be counterproductive in terms of actually accomplishing a stable status quo."  Oh, we should focus on what it takes to succeed, rather than respond to the mantras of the past?  
"Libyan civilians are much safer than they were ten days ago, which ought to be the basic standard of determining whether or not a humanitarian intervention is a success."
    •  The piece goes on to discuss the need for planning even though plans always fall apart in war.  The process of planning, it is argued, is important.  So far, so good.  Then it uses the example of Iraq 2003 as slavish devotion to a plan, but I would suggest that is a poor example since the focus was much more on not planning, ignoring planning, rather than actually thinking about the possibilities and coming up with alternatives.  Otherwise, a solid post.
Things may be changing quickly on the ground, according to some of the stuff I have seen on twitter.  Momentum is definitely on the side of the rebels.  What happens after that?  No one really knows.

1 comment:

PSmith said...

The fact that, as you mention, there really is no endgame for Libya is a large part of why I question this intervention. This Al Jazeera article ( raises a lot of "what if" questions that ought to have been considered at the outset. What if a stalemate emerges and the opposition realizes that mediated negotiations are the best way forward? Considering that the US and France among others have openly declared Qaddafi illegitimate and unfit to govern, this seems to no longer be a viable option. What if western intervention leads, as it often does, to large numbers of civilian casualties, which has the effect of escalating the war?

I also think its way too early to declare the mission a success because Libyan civilians are safer than they were before. So much rides on what comes after the intervention that this comment is premature to say the least. It is noteworthy that rather than serving to deter other Arab governments from cracking down on their populations, this intervention has served to do just the opposite, at least in Yemen and Bahrain. It would be a shame if it turned out that intervention in Libya undermined the movements occurring in other Arab countries.