Only the first step

Last night, NATO ministers voted to accept a handover of responsibility from the US for the no fly zone and the naval arms embargo operations. They also voted in principle to form a committee of all coalition members to direct the political aspects of the war. No one knows how this committee will be structured or what kind of influence it will exercise on military operations. In fact, no one knows if NATO will ever vote such a committee into existence.

It's what the didn't do that is significant; they refused to take control of combat operations directed against Gaddafi's ground forces. All they agreed to was that they would negotiate some more and that the ultimate goal was for NATO to take control.

What's standing in the way? Germany and Turkey who are both opposed to any offensive operations against Gaddafi as well as being against regime change. Either country could scuttle a NATO plan to take control and at present, it is difficult to see how differences can be papered over to bring them on board.

I wrote a piece for FrontPage.com explaining the dilemma:

It appears that what NATO ministers voted on Thursday evening was just the first step in what might be a long process of trying to satisfy all members of the alliance (votes on military action must be unanimous among the 28 members).This will probably take some doing. France wishes to aggressively attack Gaddafi and also backs regime change, while Turkey and the Arab League are reluctant to use coalition air power to help the rebels, and are currently opposed to removing Gaddafi. France was against the idea of NATO taking control, while Italy, Turkey, and the Arab League wouldn't continue to support the action unless it did. Germany, who pulled naval assets out of the Mediterranean because of the offensive air campaign against Gaddafi's forces, would also look in askance at any expansion of NATO's role beyond enforcing the no-fly zone and arms embargo. And UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated flatly that "the primary aim [of coalition efforts] is to provide protection for civilians, to save lives. It's not aiming to change any regime."

The nightmare of a fractured body working at cross purposes with itself in making military command decisions is a reality that needs to be avoided. It would almost certainly lead to unnecessary casualties, as well as an ineffective prosecution of the war. In fact, it is hard to envision how such an alliance could survive the almost guaranteed misunderstandings that will arise. The differences appear too vast to simply be papered over. Either NATO will protect civilians by killing Gaddafi's forces or they won't. Unless there is movement from Turkey and Germany on this issue, it is difficult to imagine how any further agreement on NATO control of the military aspect of the campaign can be reached - even if some kind of "grand coalition council" can be cobbled together in the first place to decide such matters.

Despite rosy words coming from Hillary Clinton and the White House, we are nowhere near handing off control of this war to NATO. In fact, the White House appears to be pinning its hopes on someone in Gaddafi's inner circle assassinating him, or the dictator leaving of his own volition. 

Otherwise, there is no exit strategy, no plans for what comes after the war, and no guarantee that NATO will take Obama off the hook by accepting responsibility for this misadventure.




Last night, NATO ministers voted to accept a handover of responsibility from the US for the no fly zone and the naval arms embargo operations. They also voted in principle to form a committee of all coalition members to direct the political aspects of the war. No one knows how this committee will be structured or what kind of influence it will exercise on military operations. In fact, no one knows if NATO will ever vote such a committee into existence.

It's what the didn't do that is significant; they refused to take control of combat operations directed against Gaddafi's ground forces. All they agreed to was that they would negotiate some more and that the ultimate goal was for NATO to take control.

What's standing in the way? Germany and Turkey who are both opposed to any offensive operations against Gaddafi as well as being against regime change. Either country could scuttle a NATO plan to take control and at present, it is difficult to see how differences can be papered over to bring them on board.

I wrote a piece for FrontPage.com explaining the dilemma:

It appears that what NATO ministers voted on Thursday evening was just the first step in what might be a long process of trying to satisfy all members of the alliance (votes on military action must be unanimous among the 28 members).

This will probably take some doing. France wishes to aggressively attack Gaddafi and also backs regime change, while Turkey and the Arab League are reluctant to use coalition air power to help the rebels, and are currently opposed to removing Gaddafi. France was against the idea of NATO taking control, while Italy, Turkey, and the Arab League wouldn't continue to support the action unless it did. Germany, who pulled naval assets out of the Mediterranean because of the offensive air campaign against Gaddafi's forces, would also look in askance at any expansion of NATO's role beyond enforcing the no-fly zone and arms embargo. And UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated flatly that "the primary aim [of coalition efforts] is to provide protection for civilians, to save lives. It's not aiming to change any regime."

The nightmare of a fractured body working at cross purposes with itself in making military command decisions is a reality that needs to be avoided. It would almost certainly lead to unnecessary casualties, as well as an ineffective prosecution of the war. In fact, it is hard to envision how such an alliance could survive the almost guaranteed misunderstandings that will arise. The differences appear too vast to simply be papered over. Either NATO will protect civilians by killing Gaddafi's forces or they won't. Unless there is movement from Turkey and Germany on this issue, it is difficult to imagine how any further agreement on NATO control of the military aspect of the campaign can be reached - even if some kind of "grand coalition council" can be cobbled together in the first place to decide such matters.

Despite rosy words coming from Hillary Clinton and the White House, we are nowhere near handing off control of this war to NATO. In fact, the White House appears to be pinning its hopes on someone in Gaddafi's inner circle assassinating him, or the dictator leaving of his own volition. 

Otherwise, there is no exit strategy, no plans for what comes after the war, and no guarantee that NATO will take Obama off the hook by accepting responsibility for this misadventure.




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