“The World’s Most Powerful Military Alliance” trumpets the accidental routing of a fourth rate tribal regime after months of literally pounding sand. Opening American bombardment aside, American logistics and C4ISR knitted together NATO’s later, successful campaign. Before that, other members appeared to confuse random bombing of various tents, hovels and the odd tank or two with a purposeful campaign.
As predicted, it took boots on the ground to change things. SAS from the UK et les autres rescued the disintegrating Western Libyan uprising, beginning with Misrata. Make no mistake. “NATO” airpower eventually proved capable (having exhausted its target set). This overlong campaign is in Tripoli now because of [unacknowledged] boots on the ground with air. Moreover, this ‘regime change’ was and remains contrary to the humanitarian UN authorizing resolution. Today’s “triumph” is premised on a fiction.
Those rushing to embrace Obama’s ‘vision’? The decision-making before and during action appears symptomatic. This White House’s unilateral assertion of war making power exceeds Cheney’s. Obama’s disdain for the War Powers Act? Harold Koh’s legal contortions? They likely will haunt us all in the future.
As for NATO, Obama leaves it in limbo, too. America ratified the concept of conditional participation – something perversely Americans spent decades arguing Europeans should not do when reluctant to meet their alliance burdens. (Let’s not forget Turkey and Germany). Now that the U.S. has made it a feature, not a bug, in NATO’s software, NATO may rue that, too. Today’s events give Brussels some ‘mo.
It may not last. The Germans are on top. The Russians definitely are out. Why budget strapped Americans carry the rest? A real question for some unless the alliance steps up investments.
Iraq 2003 showed everyone toppling a minor dictator often is the easy part. It’s what comes next that will make the most difference .Some already call for a NATO stabilization force on the ground. Or to use the “the Libyan model” on Syria.
Liberal interventionism is cresting. We see no evidence that many are thinking about making Libya work. Let alone serve as a model. Obama may lack the capital (real and political), to deploy the U.S. military elsewhere in similar fashion in the short term. That may not be a bad thing.