Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Friendly Skies

Speculation is rife in the chilly precincts of Washington D.C. about the prospect of showing Charlie-Sheen-level-nutzoid dictator Muhammar Gadaffi how no-fly-y a U.S.(U.K./NATO/EU???) no-fly zone might be.I happened to catch "Good Morning America" the other day and, just before changing channels to prevent gouging out my own eyeballs with a grapefruit spoon to stop the horror that is American network "news" I caught the male talking head "interviewing" U.S. ambassador to the UN Sue Rice and I thought the man was going to pop an actual testicle with the vehemence he used to squeal "But are you ready NOW to enforce a no-fly ZONE!"

Rice's response was, sadly, the worst sort of diplospeak and made her sound both confused and deceptive, an Ann Coulter parody of a timid liberal. She kept replying that the Administration was "...examining the options..." and "...had the situation on the front burner..." and asking "Can do that squeally thing again for me, bitch?"

OK, she didn't actually SAY the last one. But I'll bet she wanted to.

What's frustrating, to me, anyway, is the way this entire business is like living 2003 over again.

Again we're being bombed with rhetoric that seems disconnected from reality. Again we're being presented with a binary solution; the neocon/liberal interventionists are shrieking "go", almost everyone else is sitting back mumbling "ummm..."

But it seems to me that this is as perfect an illustration of the sort of thing that jim likes to hammer on; a vast confusion of what U.S. military power CAN do with what it needs to or SHOULD do.

David Axe points out the obvious; we bitchslapped the Libyans in the Eighties and their technical and tactical capabilities are, if anything, worse now. Could we ground the Libyan aircraft?

But's that not the important question. That question would be; what then?

Because, in effect, by sending warplaces ovr Libyan airspace we would be buying a piece of the anti-Gadaffi...whatever the hell is going on on the ground there. Which nobody, including the U.S. intelligence agencies, to judge by the variety of witless prosody emerging from U.S. government figures, has anything but the vaguest idea. So we'd become associated with whatever ends up in Benghazi after the star of Two-and-a-half-Whackos gets his pink slip.

And we have no flippin' idea what or who that will be. Sending U.S. aircraft over Libya would be nice for the Libyans, but it would be the geopolitical equivalent of John Travolta's ration plan from "Look Who's Talking": "Could be lunch meat, could be peaches. Who knows? Just cause it's garbage don't mean it don't taste good."

Sadly for the Libyans, the overriding mission of U.S. military aircraft is to defend the U.S., its interests, and its citizens.

(Interestingly, Spenser Ackerman thinks that someone in the Pentagon (either the SecDef or the CJCS) doesn't like the idea, either.)

Are we ready to deal with what would come after Gadaffi? And are we ready to up the ante if the no-fly zone doesn't "work? Bob Farley explains:
"As such, advocates of a no fly zone have to answer two difficult questions. First, to what extent do we really want to be responsible for installing the next regime in Tripoli? This is what we’d be doing, because a no fly zone is a military intervention intended to help one party win. Second, what if Gaddafi wins in spite of the enforcement of a no fly zone? There was a point at which Saddam Hussein seemed utterly dead in 1991, with a no fly zone appearing to be the coup de grace. Committing the United States to regime change in the form of enforcing a no fly zone made 2003 radically more likely, if not inevitable.

Advocates of a no fly zone, even those I respect, haven’t answered these questions to my satisfaction."
Hey, I loves me some blowing shit up - I was a cannon-cocker, after all. And blowing Libyans up? No sweat-di-dah.

But, frankly, without knowing what is to come after the Insane Clown Posse, or how far we would be willing to go to stop the clown act, why would I want, or the U.S. want, or ANY sane Western individual want to intervene militarily in another Islamic country?Because the first couple of tries worked so friggin well?


  1. Personally, I don't see much support for this idea in the military. The SECDEF and CJCS sure don't sound very excited about the prospect. As a former air defense analyst I'm not excited about the prospect.

    It seems to me the whole idea is putting the cart before the ass. The diplos and spooks need to do a lot of groundwork before the big guns get called in and if we did our shit right we shouldn't need the military at all.

  2. Good post Chief-

    Essentially it's overthrowing yet another Muslim state and replacing it with? And at what cost?

    It's no wonder the noise machine is all gung-ho on going in, this has been their talking point since 2001, and they do like those big explosions "made in the USA" . . .

    My suggestion would be to watch events as they unfold and definately do not get involved in any of these conflicts forming in the Arab world, it would only backfire on us given our history in the region. In fact our policy should be to disentangle ourselves from where we are involved at present and leave the place to sort itself out. In this one instance then, let the "market" deal with what happens next . . .

    The Europeans have the most at stake here, what do the Italians, French and Germans think about it? Are they willing to get involved or quietly support the resistance? Perhaps some limited support for Franco-Italian action?

  3. The situation goes a bit further than either of the previous posters have considered.

    The Euros get a decent percentage of their oil from Libya and really don't like to have the taps turned off for very long. Part of their concern is that the longer this tiny little civil war goes on the longer it will be before repairs can be made to the infrastructure to get the oil flowing again.

    Although Andy is likely right about most of the Pentagon (I suspect the Navy is all in favor, finally, a coastal war!), it doesn't matter what the military thinks right now. There's this strange alignment of social conservatives (any use of military force is good), liberals (we can help the Libyan people overthrow a ruthless despot), and neo-cons (crushing ineffective despotic Arab governments is good because it gives AQ one less place to hide/recruit).

    All of these theories are likely to be wrong in one way or the other but the political side of Washington is all atwitter about us being unified for a change so they are full steam ahead even though Andy is right that we should let the Diplo's try to sort it out before we start shooting.

    I think a NATO action is inevitable if the current scuffle lasts more than 60 days. Hopefully the Libyans can sort it out before then.

  4. Pluto-

    I did consider Libyian oil which is why I commented, "The Europeans have the most at stake here . . ." This is the main driving force behind EU involvement, which still does not make it a done deal.

  5. Pluto,

    If Libyan oil is a vital interest to Europe then they are free to take the lead as far as I'm concerned. I don't see any reason why the US should do the heavy lifting and carry the brunt of the consequences unless Europe puts a lot of skin in the game.

    Even so, I think an indirect approach is far preferable to overt military action.

  6. Chief,
    You mention that we kicked Libyan ass in the 80's but at what cost?
    The bombing was a feely ,touchy tuff guy moment that did nothing of value.
    I was doing Terrorism counteraction at the time, and if i remember correctly, all the intell reports indicated that we only empowered the radicals, by undercutting the moderates in theater. Also Terrorism didn't decline, although the gov't played like it did.Fortunately TIME/NEWSWEEK back then did some real reporting.
    Sound familiar?
    Unintended consequences anyone.?!
    I find it amusing that the EU is applying sanctions. That's a hoot- i bet he's really filling his pants over that. Q should apply a few sanctions just to make it interesting.

  7. jim-

    Much of Libya's infrastructure is being built and operated by European contractors/investors. Five months ago, My neighbor returned after a year and a half there supervising a hospital construction project. Is very glad that he's now retired! Additionally, there are economic factors that depend on European investments. They sanctions may not be "war stoppers", but they are real and will hurt Q.

  8. MQ's interview with the BBC was priceless . . . notice what prompted him to switch to English . . .

    And of course Colonel Lang's SST has the usual perceptive commentary . . .

  9. Seydlitz:
    I’ve been following the Libya scene on Der Langmeister’s site (yes I know, the ultimate insultobot, of which I have been a target). He seems to be in favor of a snake-eater and attendant logistical tail intervention; to prevent a bloody outcome for the agitated students/workers.

    There are certainly valid objections to that point of view: A- yet another would be war against Arab Muslims. B- The propagandization of which, by MQ is now underway. C- Some of the local resistance cats are against intervention; because they think their operational art of:1- firing AK’s in the air, 2-spraying and praying in a general enemy direction, 3-menkey pumping of AK’s heavenward 4- posing on ammo-less, ancient ZSU’s, or with 100mm tank rounds perched in their arms, will carry the day, in a potential Stalingrad Lite environment in Tripoli. D-Have I mentioned the infamoso Arab Street? Or the world street? The enlightened American Street?.....The last a road of perdition, somewhat like the streets of Laredo... just two gunslingers face off..... tumbleweeds and dirt swirling about...well, you get the picture.

    On the interventionist side of the street, the reasoning implies a prevention of repeats of:

    A- 1991’s Saddam vs Shiite, slaughter (brought about by Poppy Bush’s alligator mouth overloading his canary ass, when it came to urging people power, removing shackles without sheckels...or US Panzers).
    B- Tutsi and Hutu Slaughter-A-Thon in Rwanda/Burundi. This causing a displacement of a cast of hundreds of thousands, featuring starvation, disease and death. This movie brought to you by the UN’s feckless over-reliance on the usual suspects of third world peacekeepers who A- help the refugee situation by introducing the pillage of everything not nailed down, especially relief supplies. B-the introduction of mass rapine of the desired victims.

    American military leadership, troops and logistical help being unavailable, ensured failure. Clinton, being the first black president (the Kenyan impostor notwithstanding), was probably afraid to upset the Black Caucus...white troops shooting black folk and all.

    Well, I can't think of any more recent examples. It's up to this august body to vote. Kinda looks like it's a thumbs down for them freedom lovin' fellas down CYRENAICA way. How do you say Solly GI in Cyrene?

  10. fasteddiez-

    Gotta admit I ALWAYS enjoy your comments, the combination of thought and wit is well, impressive to this country boy. Yea, I kinda got that drift over at SST as well, although ya get the feeling that it's considered more the least bad option.

    Probably better than dropping in the NED boys and girls now, but that will happen later in any case . . .

  11. fasteddiez: I think the biggest negative to any sort of armed intervention here is the very real lack of any sort of organized opposition; there's just no there there. Very like the situation in Rwanda. The problem with these open-ended civil wars is like wading into a bar fight and getting your boots on the necks of two of the baddest brawlers. How do you convince them to stop fighting once you take the boot off? Even worse, how the hell do YOU get back out the door?

    If we had some sort of influence in Libya we might accomplish it, but the only Westerners with real ties there are the Italians, and my understanding is that the Italian colonial period is not a fond memory for most Libyans.

  12. The trick is, if you really want to do this stuff, to find a local who will ask you to intervene as an ally. That way you can be Rochambeau at Yorktown and not Caesar in Britain...or you CAN be Caesar in the sensible, Caesarian way, by having a local proxy for a beard.