Why NATO will never take command of the Libya operation

This is an absolutely brutal essay by Phillip Stephens in the Financial Times. Mr. Stephens points out why European militaries are so unprepared to get the "hand off" from President Obama for responsibility in Libya:
The French have a serious point in arguing that political oversight of this mission should reach beyond the western nations represented in Nato. But theological objections to vesting military command and control in Nato have shown the childish side of French diplomacy.

Above all, however, the Libyan venture has betrayed the paucity of Europe's military capability. Britain has sent a dozen or so fighter aircraft, a couple of frigates and a submarine, and its military chiefs say that is about as much as it can do. It has nothing left if some new crisis were to emerge in, say, the Gulf. Everything is committed elsewhere, mostly to Afghanistan.

France has assembled a more impressive force - it still has an aircraft carrier - but it too is looking overstretched. Both countries have been cutting their defence budgets.

The uncomfortable facts were set out by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary-general, at last month's Munich security conference. A decade ago, Mr Rasmussen said, the US accounted for about half of the defence spending of all Nato countries. That share is now closer to 75 per cent. During the past two years, spending by the European members of the alliance had shrunk by $45bn, equivalent to the entire German defence budget.

The Europeans, in other words, have been pretending that history did indeed end in 1989. The Arab uprisings have reminded them otherwise. The lesson of the Suez debacle was that Britain and France could not defy American power; the message of the Libyan campaign is that they cannot take it for granted.

Do you think someone mentioned the paucity of NATO assets to the president before he decided to hand off command to the Europeans? As many analysts have been saying since this adventure started, the only way it is going to succeed is if America, as always, does most of the heavy lifting. We have the quantitative and qualitative military assets to make the operation work. But Obama wants to pull American assets out of the fight and have us in a "support" role.

This is not going to work and I'm sure the Europeans, at some point, will let the president know this. In the end, we will probably have American combat aircraft and other assets under the command of NATO and no one will believe that it isn't an American operation.

That's the price Obama will pay for sticking his head in the sand.


This is an absolutely brutal essay by Phillip Stephens in the Financial Times. Mr. Stephens points out why European militaries are so unprepared to get the "hand off" from President Obama for responsibility in Libya:

The French have a serious point in arguing that political oversight of this mission should reach beyond the western nations represented in Nato. But theological objections to vesting military command and control in Nato have shown the childish side of French diplomacy.

Above all, however, the Libyan venture has betrayed the paucity of Europe's military capability. Britain has sent a dozen or so fighter aircraft, a couple of frigates and a submarine, and its military chiefs say that is about as much as it can do. It has nothing left if some new crisis were to emerge in, say, the Gulf. Everything is committed elsewhere, mostly to Afghanistan.

France has assembled a more impressive force - it still has an aircraft carrier - but it too is looking overstretched. Both countries have been cutting their defence budgets.

The uncomfortable facts were set out by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary-general, at last month's Munich security conference. A decade ago, Mr Rasmussen said, the US accounted for about half of the defence spending of all Nato countries. That share is now closer to 75 per cent. During the past two years, spending by the European members of the alliance had shrunk by $45bn, equivalent to the entire German defence budget.

The Europeans, in other words, have been pretending that history did indeed end in 1989. The Arab uprisings have reminded them otherwise. The lesson of the Suez debacle was that Britain and France could not defy American power; the message of the Libyan campaign is that they cannot take it for granted.

Do you think someone mentioned the paucity of NATO assets to the president before he decided to hand off command to the Europeans? As many analysts have been saying since this adventure started, the only way it is going to succeed is if America, as always, does most of the heavy lifting. We have the quantitative and qualitative military assets to make the operation work. But Obama wants to pull American assets out of the fight and have us in a "support" role.

This is not going to work and I'm sure the Europeans, at some point, will let the president know this. In the end, we will probably have American combat aircraft and other assets under the command of NATO and no one will believe that it isn't an American operation.

That's the price Obama will pay for sticking his head in the sand.


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