Friday, August 26, 2011

Let the Credit Taking/Blame Casting Begin

With the fall of Tripoli, it is time for everyone to take credit and cast blame.  There is a triumphant piece in the National Post where the Canadians take credit for providing a disproportionate contribution to the bombing effort.  Depending on what one considers to be the denominator of the ratio of x/y to determine proportionality, nearly every country that dropped bombs on Libya could probably be viewed as providing more than it share with the possible exceptions of the US, Italy, and maybe the UK.

Clearly, the Danes, Norwegians (who re-deployed their planes back home in August), and the Belgians (assertive defense policies are easier when one does not have a government?) played a bigger role than their population sizes, defense budgets or expectations would have predicted.  And, yes, the Canadians, too.  France's 1/3 of the load certainty is punching above its weight, to use the phrase everyone uses in these circumstances.  Italy's 10% or so and Britain's 10% or so (before the last few weeks) are probably about right for the larger economies/populations/militaries of Europe.  The US did not do as much as folks ordinarily expect but given its relative military power, it certainly carried a very significant load, particularly providing much of the stuff needed to facilitate the bombing--intel, communications, satellites, re-fueling, ammunition, etc.

It seems that Qatar really punched above its weight with Special Operations types helping the rebels.

The disproportionalities are not only a function of who gave but who did not--Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, and most of the East European members of NATO. 

Given this pattern, it is fun to see both those pieces that are triumphant about NATO by past NATO officials (Abshire) and scathing about the European Union which once again failed to be relevant in a crisis near Europe.  Actually, there has been lots of debate over the past few days about NATO's value.  It is more than just that a handful of Europeans and the Americans joined France and Britain in their quest.  NATO as an institution provided all kinds of experience, practices, assets, headquarters, personnel and more to provide the glue among the many planes, ships, and other forces in the region so that the planes could reach Libya and then hit rather precisely the targets that had been identified (and still are being identified).  But NATO has never been a place where all countries agree all the time, as the above piece by Abshire remind us.  Burden-sharing always has been and always will be a topic if debate when you have sovereign countries with disparate interests trying to agree to do something.  Someone should write a book about this .... perhaps to be published in the next year (yes, Dave and Steve are nearly done, but now must revise conclusion to address Libya).

And the EU, well, I have long been a Euro-skeptic, especially when it comes to defense issues.  Not much more to say than the piece linked above. 

Of course, the real burden-sharing/avoiding will be in the days ahead--who does what in post-Qaddafi Libya?  The experts (Marc Lynch and others) want NATO out of it, and I think NATO is likely to agree--exhausted by Afghanistan.  But the African Union is not a serious alternative.  We may see stabilization by the willing and perhaps not even an institutional figleaf.  No predictions yet thanks to Rathbun's admonition.  At least, not until I forget his post.

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