Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I‘la’ al-a‘là fī sabīl al-magd!

The recent mister-and-missus in Washington about intervening in Libya has me wondering:

What the hell did we sell all those F-16s to Egypt for?I mean, think: if you were a Libyan rebel and you wanted a "no-fly" zone over Libya, who would be the most logical candidate to appeal to? The Great Satan, arch-pal of the Israelis, wog-basher of Iraq? Or your Arab pals next door?

This is why I am always suspicious that much of what goes on in D.C. has a pantsload less to do with commonsense and national interests and more to do with Andy Bachevich's "Washington Rules". Here you have the Arab League saying that "someone" suppressing Gadaffi's air assets would be a lovely notion, you have the Egyptians right next door with all those pretty warplanes, and you now have an "official" rebel government ready to act the Continental Congress to Air Marshal Mohamad's de Grasse. Who the hell needs those Yankee bandits when there are stalwart Believers ready to fight for Allah and Country?

WTF, over? Am I missing something?Chocks away, Rafiq! It's wild blue yonder time!


  1. The Egyptians are likely not capable of maintaining enough CAP that far west, and the use of Cyrenaica airfields would be a lot more messy than a mere air patrol.

    They could take out airfields around Tripolis and land in Tunisia before refuelling for return to Egypt, of course.

    But then again the Egyptians are neighbours. What happens if Gadaffi wins nevertheless?

  2. All the more reason for them to fly the friendly skies; who wants that nutjob next door?

    What I guess I don't "get" is why this hasn't been floated earlier? It certainly seems more logical than having the Europeans or the U.S. do this. Egypt has had pretensions of "leadership" in the Arab world for some time. Well, leaders have to use their military as well as their economic and political muscle when the situation calls for it, and this seems like a very likely situation; the alternative is a) a return of Gadaffi, only this time with a nasty domestic insurgency and/or massive paranoia and a dirty war, or b) a long-running civil war next door. If I'm Egypt, I sure would want to make sure I had some sort of control over who ruled to the west. No?

  3. Actually, why go part way?

    The Egyptians have lots of Abrams tanks.
    A quick drive to Tripoli and back and that would be the end of Col Gadaffi.

  4. I don't think it's going to happen for the simple reason that if MQ wipes out the Libyan rebellion then the great Arab uprising of 2011 goes into the reactionary phase, and who is most interested in that scenario? The Saudis of course. I wouldn't read too much in to the Arab League call for a no-fly zone, which was vague and imo more for show. The real interests - the same that have soooo much to lose should this wave of revolt continue - have no desire to see the Libyan revolt surviving.

    I suspect the Egyptian military would just as well see a damper on the whole revolt fever as well . . .

    Let's face it, the only hope for the Libyan opposition is France . . .

  5. One would have a hard time seeing the Libyans on either side welcoming the Italians back, that's for sure.

    It looks as though the FRG has put the kibosh on EU involvement; the Libyan rebels better toss up an Ataturk pretty soon or the lampposts of Benghazi look to bear strange fruit.

    I guess what this drives home to me is how badly we in the U.S. tend to misread the politics of foreign parts. Because the meme here is "the great Arab deomcratic awakening", and I think we, in our naive democratic enthusiasm, forget that our "great friends" of the House of Saud or the Egyptian "democratic revolutionaries" are not really our friends or even particularly friendly to that which we consider important and dear.

    A brutal reminder that nations have interests, not friends, and that the deaths of innocents (or rebels) are not a compelling interest in themselves, whether to neighboring nations or to Great Powers far away.

  6. Still, MQ's "forces" must be at the end of a very long supply line, especially ammo? Their cohesion is strong in parts, but if you targeted MQ's actual forces, his mercenaries might disappear pretty quick.

    The North African Campaign of 1940-3 was very much a see-saw struggle over this very sand . . . Smash MQ's lead forces now, capture his weapons and chase the remnants back across the desert, how much combat power would that actually take?

    Could the French do it with the -Charles De Gaulle- and a few regiments of French armored troops? . . . anything to avoid the fall of Benghazi.

  7. We need the Australians to hold Tobruk...

    The reality is that these Third World thug armies don't really stand up in conventional fights. So a couple of battalions of the LE would probably see them off. But the problem still remains; what now? Do you hang around forever trying to help your lot of handless wogs against the other lot of handless wogs? The internal civil war could last decades.

    I think the only really workable idea was the first one; get the Egyptians to cross the border to help their fellow rebels. If they can't, or won't, I see no real benefit in dragging the First World in, and a lot of potential downsides.

  8. Chief,

    Egypt could make a show of it and maybe some airstrikes,but couldn't do much of substance. For a NFZ you need awacs, tankers, you'd need to take out the SA-5 sites that would threaten same. Egypt's got shiny toys, but don't have the training or desire for that kind of complex operation.

    Even when we were doing the NFZ's in Iraq as a matter of routine, we didn't have aircraft patrolling 24/7. We'd have the "box" open at specific times. Often Saddam would launch some aircraft and dip in the NFZ and run away and play all kinds of other games when he suspect the box was closed. A couple of times he tried to nab an Awacs. A true long-duration, 24/7 NFZ over a country takes a ton of aircraft and support.

    As far as what do to in Libya, I think this is a case of go big or go home. Half-assed solutions like a NFZ are likely to lead to half-assed results that leave Libya divided in an extended civil war and leave us overtly involved for an indefinite period. If MQ can't win and the rebels can't win, then that is a recipe for our indefinite involvement.

    IMO, these are options to consider:

    1. Back the rebels. Embed some SF-A teams with the rebels, support them with air power and wipe MQ's forces up on the march to Tripoli, a'la Afghanistan circa 2001.

    2. Do nothing. This looks to be what we're probably going to do. MQ beats the rebels and Europe holds its nose and buys his oil.

    3. Covertly assist the rebels. This is a half-assed solution but it's better than a NFZ.

  9. Andy: I think the way an Egyptian/rebel alliance would have to work is that the "no-fly" zone would consist of Egyptian airstrikes on the government airbases to destroy their A/C on the ground, combined with Egyptian CAPs and tacair support for rebel ground forces. So, yeah, that's "going big".

    I think the real reason that both we and the Euros are staying out is a (IMO realistic) fear that even if Qaddafi "wins" he may be looking at a long-term insurrection, and the prospects for relative peace after a rebel win aren't good, either.

    One outcome I can see from option 2 is a massive rebel flight into Egypt in front of a government push east. I think that, training and desire aside, Egypt is being extremely shortsighted about the downside of a Gaddafi win. He was bugnuts before; now he's gonna be bugnuts on steroids AND dealing with the aftermath of a failed rebellion.

    What a fuckstory.

  10. Can an NFZ be enforced against helicopters? Apparently Khadafi has plenty of soviet HINDs.

    After Gulf War I military operations stopped, Saddam was explicitly allowed to fly helicopters, which he used to crush a Shia rebellion.

    Was the decision to allow helicopter flights just a matter of stupidity? Or was the decision driven by a belief that the Iraq NFZ enforcement was simply not capable of dealing with helicopters anyway?



  11. JP: The USAF pretty much cleaned the Iraqi helos out of the air during Gulf War II; I suspect that something similar could have been done during the summer of '91 if it had been considered in the national interest.

    I think, rather, the issue was one of not wanting to rub the U.S. public's nose in the "mission-not-accomplished" part of the war, and remind them that we had done a Hungarian Rising on their Shiite ass.

  12. "the French carrier Charles de Gaulle is in the Mediterranean port of Toulon"


    That was on 8 March. Where is the Charles de Gaulle now? . . .

  13. I guess I shouldn't be surprised at this point, but it looks like the half-assed "solution" wins the day.