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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Libya—What is the Mission

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War

An evil Arab dictator has been in power for decades. He personally controls his country's vast oil wealth. A sponsor of terrorism, he has provoked the West to take military action against him in the past. Islamic fundamentalists despise him as much as the West does. When his people rise up against him, he murders them ruthlessly. The United Nations Security Council has passed resolutions condemning him. An American president, intent on promoting democracy in the Middle East, demands that the dictator abdicate. When the dictator fails to leave, the American president authorizes the use of military force. Our "allies," including Great Britain, are asked to help. The endgame for the use of force is unclear.

Sound familiar? No, we're not talking about Moammar Gaddafi and Barack Obama. We're talking about Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush. The difference is this: in almost the exact same set of circumstances, Bush was called "Hitler" by the Left. Leftists wrote plays and stories and movies about killing him. Democratic Party politicians, like Sen. Dick Durbin, likened our troops to "Nazis." Democratic Senators like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, who voted for the military action, accused the president of lying. Mass demonstrations and protests, sponsored by the communist and socialist Left, broke out in the U.S. and Great Britain. Antiwar groups like Code Pink staged demonstrations at military recruiting stations, and had to be dragged shrieking from the halls of Congress. Opponents of the war shouted that Saddam's Iraq never attacked us, and that our military action was a violation of international law. The Left cried for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

President Obama has just committed American forces to engage in acts of war against Moammar Gaddafi. Where are the protesters? Where are the accusations that Obama is a liar and a Nazi? Where are the groups of "artists" wishing death upon the "warmonger" Obama? Where are the cries for Obama's impeachment? There aren't any, and there won't be any, either. Obama - who made a fetish out of his opposition to the "surge" in Iraq, yet ordered a "surge" of his own in Afghanistan - has just committed American forces to combat action against a third Muslim country. No matter. He won the Nobel Peace Prize a priori. The Left regards him as a man of peace in its own mind; the facts are irrelevant.

The Left's hypocrisy on matters of war and peace is sickening. When the Democratic Party is in power, it routinely commits America to war. When Republicans are in power, Democrats engage in shameless demagoguery and paint the Republicans as bloodthirsty warmongers.

In the 1996 presidential campaign, Republican candidate Bob Dole raised some hackles when he said that the majority of American lives lost in combat in the 20th century had been lost in "Democrat wars." Well, Dole was right. Democrat Woodrow Wilson sent American forces to Europe in 1917 not for concrete American interests but for the hazy notion of making the world "safe for democracy." 100,000 were killed. Germany became democratic, all right, and in 1932 the Nazi Party won enough seats in the Reichstag to get Adolf Hitler appointed Chancellor.

When World War II broke out in Europe, Americans wanted neutrality. Democrat Franklin Roosevelt wanted involvement, but public opinion would not allow him to send troops when the British were being bombarded by the Luftwaffe in 1940. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Congress rightly declared war on them; but Commander-in-chief Roosevelt committed American forces first to North Africa, then to Italy, then to Germany. Japan, the only Axis power to actually attack the U.S., was defeated last. 400,000 Americans were killed.

Democrat Harry Truman sent American forces to defend South Korea after communist North Korea invaded in 1950. The communists believed they had a green light to attack when Truman's Secretary of State Dean Acheson failed to include South Korea in America's defense "perimeter." Truman refused to use nuclear weapons to save American lives. End result: 50,000 American dead for a stalemate. Sixty years later, communist North Korea is still there, and now it has nuclear weapons.

Democrat John Kennedy began American involvement in Vietnam, and Democrat Lyndon Johnson escalated the war, sending 500,000 American troops. End result: 58,000 American dead, and a humiliating withdrawal. When Republican Richard Nixon was elected in 1968, he promised to end American involvement in Vietnam; yet he and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger are regarded as "war criminals" by the Left.

Democrat Bill Clinton sent American warplanes to bomb Serbia, which never attacked us; and on Dec. 16, 1998 (which just happened to be the night before he was to be impeached) Clinton ordered four days of bombing missions against Iraq. Did anyone call him "Hitler" or a "war criminal"?

Democrats and liberals commit American forces to war promiscuously because they are arrogant and cocksure that their gassy ideals about "democracy" and the "international community" are correct and everybody else is stupid. Woodrow Wilson, the college professor, vowed to "teach Mexico to elect good men." When he went to Versailles in 1919, he was accompanied by a group of professors nicknamed "The Inquiry" who were going to fix the world. FDR had his famous "Brain Trust," and Kennedy and Johnson had the "Best and Brightest." The world thought otherwise.

By contrast, Republicans have been concerned with concrete American interests. When Bush invaded Iraq, making sure that Saddam did not possess weapons of mass destruction that could be given to terrorists was indeed a concrete American interest. He went "off the reservation" when the mission morphed into creating an Iraqi democracy.

031911_libya1What are the concrete American interests in Libya? If promoting a "democratic" uprising in the Middle East is our goal, what do we do if Gaddafi is replaced by America-hating Muslim fundamentalists in a democratic election? And why didn't we call for a "no-fly zone" in Iran during the uprising of 2009? If promoting democracy in the Middle East is our goal, should we back the protesters trying to overthrow Saleh in Yemen? Should we back the Shiite uprising in Bahrain — home of the U.S. 5th Fleet? If there is an uprising against the royal family in Saudi Arabia, should we commit American forces to help overthrow King Abdullah?

Judith Miller writes in an opinion piece for Fox News: “There are also hard choices ahead for Obama. Libya may now at last be a clear call, if only on humanitarian grounds, but what will the White House do about Bahrain, whose Sunni Muslim ruling family seems determined to kill protesters if it must to retain power in a country whose population is overwhelmingly Shiite? What about Saudi Arabia, where demonstrations have so far been relatively small and confined largely to the eastern Shiite Muslim province of the kingdom. Should oil-rich nations be permitted to kill their citizens with impunity to suppress protests when such conduct in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya is denounced by President Obama as “outrageous” and “on the wrong side of history?”

“Will Americans see the emergence of a consistent standard or policy from their president, or an opportunistic alliance with whoever appears to be winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the Arab street? Is there now or will there ever be an “Obama doctrine” on this issue that reflects both American values and what we have learned from the last decade of divisive wars?”

Fox News reports: “Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Western forces have established "24/7" combat air patrols over the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, leaving Muammar al-Gaddafi's air force paralyzed.”

"We've had a pretty significant impact in this first 24 hours ... I would say the no-fly zone we were tasked to put in place is now in place," Mullen said on "Fox News Sunday."

“But that doesn't mean Gaddafi is a goner, Mullen said. The chance exists that Gaddafi could manage to cling to power without a follow-up to the military campaign.”

“Gaddafi remaining is "certainly potentially one outcome," Mullen told NBC's "Meet the Press," noting that the U.N.-approved air strikes "are limited and it isn't about seeing him go."

As I write this I am watching scenes of a battle raging as Gaddafi’s forces attack the rebel held coastal city of Misurata. How will a no-fly zone prevent further attacks by Gaddafi’s ground forces?

George Friedman of Stratfor states in a lengthy report filed on March 19: “War commences with two sets of attacks. The first attacks are decapitation attacks designed to destroy or isolate the national command structure. These may also include strikes designed to kill leaders such as Gaddafi and his sons or other senior leaders. These attacks depend on specific intelligence on facilities, including communications, planning and so on along with detailed information on the location of the leadership. Attacks on buildings are carried out from the air but not particularly with cruise missile because they are especially accurate if the targets are slow, and buildings aren’t going anywhere. At the same time, aircraft are orbiting out of range of air defenses awaiting information on more mobile targets and if such is forthcoming, they come into range and fire appropriate munitions at the target. The type of aircraft used depends on the robustness of the air defenses, the time available prior to attack and the munitions needed. They can range from conventional fighters or stealth strategic aircraft like the U.S. B-2 bomber (if the United States authorized its use). Special operations forces might be on the ground painting the target for laser-guided munitions, which are highly accurate but require illumination.”

“At the same time these attacks are under way, attacks on airfields, fuel storage depots and the like are being targeted to ground the Libyan air force. Air or cruise missile attacks are also being carried out on radars of large and immobile surface-to-air (SAM) missile sites. Simultaneously, “wild weasel” aircraft — aircraft configured for the suppression of enemy air defenses — will be on patrol for more mobile SAM systems to locate and destroy. This becomes a critical part of the conflict. Being mobile, detecting these weapons systems on the ground is complex. They engage when they want to, depending on visual perception of opportunities. Therefore the total elimination of anti-missile systems is in part up to the Libyans. Between mobile systems and man-portable air-defense missiles, the threat to allied aircraft can persist for quite a while even if Gaddafi’s forces might have difficulty shooting anything down”.

“This is the part that the United States in particular and the West in general is extremely good at. But it is the beginning of the war. Gaddafi’s primary capabilities are conventional armor and particularly artillery. Destroying his air force and isolating his forces will not by itself win the war. The war is on the ground. The question is the motivation of his troops: If they perceive that surrender is unacceptable or personally catastrophic, they may continue to fight. At that point the coalition must decide if it intends to engage and destroy Gaddafi’s ground forces from the air. This can be done, but it is never a foregone conclusion that it will work. Moreover, this is the phase at which civilian casualties begin to mount. It is a paradox of warfare instigated to end human suffering that the means of achieving this can sometimes impose substantial human suffering itself. This is not merely a theoretical statement. It is at this point at which supporters of the war who want to end suffering may turn on the political leaders for not ending suffering without cost. It should be remembered that Saddam Hussein was loathed universally but those who loathed him were frequently not willing to impose the price of overthrowing him. The Europeans in particular are sensitive to this issue.”

“The question then becomes the extent to which this remains an air operation, as Kosovo was, or becomes a ground operation. Kosovo is the ideal, but Gaddafi is not Slobodan Milosevic and he may not feel he has anywhere to go if he surrenders. For him the fight may be existential, whereas for Milosevic it was not. He and his followers may resist. This is the great unknown. The choice here is to maintain air operations for an extended period of time without clear results, or invade. This raises the question of whose troops would invade. Egypt appears ready but there is long animosity between the two countries, and its actions might not be viewed as liberation. The Europeans could do so. It is difficult to imagine Obama adopting a third war in Muslim world as his own. This is where the coalition is really tested.”

“If there is an invasion, it is likely to succeed. The question then becomes whether Gaddafi’s forces move into opposition and insurgency. This again depends on morale but also on behavior. The Americans forced an insurgency in Iraq by putting the Baathists into an untenable position. In Afghanistan the Taliban gave up formal power without having been decisively defeated. They regrouped, reformed and returned. It is not known to us what Gaddafi can do or not do. It is clear that it is the major unknown.”

I am no fan of Gaddafi. His sponsorship of the bombing of Pan Am 103 killed my neighbor, a flight engineer on that flight. But, having said that I can see no compelling reason for us taking military action in a civil war in Libya. What are our national interests here? Is it oil? We get 1.5% of our oil from Libya. Is it in the interest of Europe and NATO? If so why aren’t the Germans, Turks, Norwegians and Greece involved — they are members of NATO.

They say that the Arab League is supporting this action. If so where are the planes from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Kuwait? They say if there is an invasion of Libya it would be by Arab League troops. If so wouldMed_Sea_800_110318 they be Sunni or Shiite?

In the parlance of the media what is the endgame? Is it to prevent the killing of Libyan rebels by forces loyal to Gaddafi or is it regime change? If it is not regime change than will the UN (or some other power) partition Libya with Benghazi, Misurata and Tobruk going to the rebels and the rest of Libya, including the oil fields going to Gaddafi? (I have researched Gaddafi’s last name and the common use name is Gaddafi, not Qaddafi).

Already, after 24 hours of bombing, the Arab League has said we have gone too far with the strikes on Libya. They claim they wanted civilians protected, not more shelling and bombing of civilians. This is typical of these Muslim countries. They can lure you into a military action and then once the action begins turn against it. Look at Somalia. We went in for humanitarian reasons to protect food conveys that were being hijacked by war lords. When we went after the warlords, with UN authority, we ended up with Black Hawk Down.

Who knows how this will end? Surely not Obama. Like virtually all military interventions instigated by the Democrats, the Libya involvement is not well thought out at all. And Democrats will not concern themselves with opposing war until the next Republican is in power.

1 comment:

  1. Good points above, but there are also some points to question. It is doubtful whether a Republican Administration could have kept the US out of WWII. A NAzi victory in Europe or Japanese domination in the Pacific would have been mortal dangers to America, and would not have been tolerated by any sane Republican leader. Also keep in mind Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican who was quite gung ho for war, imncluding war in Cuba, the Phillipines etc..

    You also mention the failure of the Truman Administration to use nuclear weapons in Korea, but fail to ask why he would need to up the ante to nukes in a war with limited prospects and with limited US strategic interests at stake. Korea was not a vital interest like Germany. Truman also had to consider In the Soviet counter as well before he went nuclear.

    All in all though, the LIbyan situation can turn into quite a mess and Ghadaffi can fight on for a long time, if resolute enough.