Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Flying While Thinking about No Fly Zone

I am traveling today so this post will be short.  I just want to note that caveats and such apply to the Libyan operation as much as to Afghanistan:
Britain and France, for example, are now flying the bulk of the attack missions, with Norway, Denmark and Canada also striking Libyan targets on the ground. But other countries, including the Netherlands, Sweden, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, are taking less aggressive roles, enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya or conducting reconnaissance missions, in a nod to political considerations back home.NYT
This is hardly surprising.  Well, it may be surprising that the Dutch are there at all, given that their sweeping defense cuts will be eliminating all of their tanks.  Perhaps their participation here is partly aimed at justifying to the home crowd the need to keep their current planes (or at least most of them) and invest in the next generation of planes (F-35's).

It should not be surprising that there is a division of labor/responsibility where some countries are willing to engage in striking targets on the ground while others refrain, enforcing only the No Fly Zone.  This has much to do with domestic politics and how these dynamics interact with the various meanings attached to the UN resolutions.

The Danes are keen to support NATO, especially with their former Prime Minister running NATO.  France is demonstrating quite clearly that caveats are a matter of Presidential interest or disinterest.  They were in the club of rations consumers (as opposed to burden bearers) in Afghanistan under Chirac, but Sarkozy has been pushing French participation in NATO since then. 

Regarding the British, coalition government does not seem to be restraining its foreign policy as some (that would be my co-author and  I) would have expected.  Will have to think more about this case.

The debate about the pace of bombing reflects a bit about how countries have different rules of engagement--some are far more willing to risk collateral damage while others are not.  Some countries are eager to participate symbolically in a NATO mission, any and all NATO missions, but not engage in any kind of effort that would be controversial.

One of the amazing things is how many countries are participating at a time of steep budget cuts.  Folks say that NATO does not matter or is entirely ineffective, but it does have a big impact of maxing pressures to participate at some level.  That is, NATO members tend to feel obligated to participate plus domestic audiences are more likely to expect their country to participate in a NATO operation.  On average, it is almost certainly harder to get domestic support for ad hoc missions than for NATO ops.  So, NATO does matter, even if it is not effective as folks would like.  Am I surprised that countries disagree about the pace of the operation?  No.  Anytime there is more than one actor, there will be differences about how an operation is conducted.

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