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Friday, June 10, 2011

NATO Is Failing In Libya And The U.S.Is Paying The Bill

"It is a happy circumstance in human affairs that evils which are not cured in one way will cure themselves in some other." — Thomas Jefferson

Today Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) walked out of a secret behind closed doors briefing to the United States Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs where he is the chairman and announced that NATO has seriously degraded Coronel Muammar Gaddafi’s ability to survive and that the rebels are winning he fight against his loyalist troops.

Leahy’s committee is responsible for recommending the level of appropriations for the continuation of our involvement with NATO’s efforts to oust Gaddafi from Libya. Leahy’s comments are in direct contradiction to the latest reports coming out Libya and those of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at yesterday’s SDA meeting in Brussels.

Fox News reported today that more than 20 were killed as Gaddafi’s forces shelled the rebel-held town of Misrata. Their report states:

“A hospital physician in Misrata says Libyan government forces are pounding the outskirts of the rebel-held city and have so far killed at least 22 people.

The doctor at Hikma Hospital, who would only give his first name, Ayman, said Muammar al-Qaddafi's forces were using tanks, artillery and incendiary rockets in the bombardment of Dafniya, about 18 miles west of Misrata. He said at least 61 people were wounded. The attacks began about 10 a.m. local time Friday.

Rebels tell Reuters that pro-Qaddafi forces shelled their positions in the Western Mountains region.

"They are shelling Zintan with Grad missiles. There have been no NATO air strikes for a week," a rebel spokesman told Reuters.

This latest violence comes as Norway says it will scale down its fighter jet contribution in Libya from six to four planes and withdraw completely from the NATO-led operation by Aug. 1.

Defense Minister Grete Faremo said she expects understanding from NATO allies because Norway has a small air force and cannot "maintain a large fighter jet contribution during a long time."

The Scandinavian country's air force says Norwegian F-16 jets have carried out about 10 percent of the NATO airstrikes in Libya since March 31.

The parties in the center-left coalition government had been at odds over whether to extend the Norwegian mission, which was scheduled to expire June 24. The most leftist faction in the government, the Socialist Left Party, opposed an extension but a compromise was reached to stay in the operation until Aug. 1 with fewer planes.

"It is wise to end the Norwegian fighter jet contribution. Now Norway should apply its efforts to find a peaceful solution in Libya," Socialist Left Party lawmaker Baard Vegar Solhjell said.

While Norway announces the end of its involvement in Libya, the Dutch government extended its forces' role in the NATO campaign of air strikes in Libya until the end of the three month extension the alliance recently announced.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates this week urged NATO allies including the Netherlands to do more in Libya to share the burden with France and Britain, which are carrying out most of the air strikes.

The Dutch government, however, is still refusing to let its six F-16 fighter jets involved in the mission to carry out airstrikes. Instead they will continue to enforce the no-fly-zone above Libya.

In addition, the government announced Friday it will send experts in psychological operations and legal affairs to join the mission.”

The Obama administration is struggling to keep Congress on board as it appeals for patience in Libya, with lawmakers in both chambers moving to check the president's war powers as the cost of the operation rises.

The Senate fired a warning shot on Wednesday with a bipartisan-backed resolution chiding President Obama for failing to provide a "compelling rationale" for the mission. The measure is similar to one that passed the House last week — however; this one is tougher in that it calls for the president to seek permission from Congress to remain in Libya.

The challenge of selling Libya got even harder Thursday as a Financial Times report claimed the Pentagon is pegging the monthly cost of the operation at about $60 million, as opposed to the $40 million a month officials had estimated earlier. A Pentagon official told Fox News that $40 million a month is still the working projection but said the number could rise.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last month the operation could cost $750 million through the end of September — it's now clear that unless the mission ends soon, it will cost at least $90 million more than that even if the cost remains at $40 million each month.

According to the Financial Times:

“Although it is working under NATO, the U.S. is by far the largest contributor to operation “Unified Protector”. As of mid-May it was conducting 70 per cent of reconnaissance missions, over 75 per cent of refueling flights and 27 per cent of all air sorties.

The U.S. has about 75 aircraft, including drones, involved in the operations and since the end of March has conducted about 2,600 aircraft sorties and about 600 combat sorties. In addition the U.S. military can call on a number of naval assets in the Mediterranean.

As well as its contribution to the NATO operation, US spending on Libya includes its twelve day operation Odyssey Dawn that took place before NATO took over.

In total the US military has fired about 228 missiles as of mid-May. For comparison the US Navy plans to buy 196 or so missiles this year for about $300m or about $1.5m each, according to U.S. budget documents.”

If this is leading from behind as Obama claims that I wonder what the costs would be if we were leading from the front. What is the contribution from the French, Italians and British? It is no doubt nowhere near the money we have spent and it’s their war!

Fox News reported today:

“In the face of mounting discontent, administration officials are pledging to work with Congress while insisting U.S. forces stay until the job is done — without defining exactly what the endpoint would look like.

"We have seen the regime weaken significantly. We have seen the opposition make gains both in the East and the West," CIA Director Leon Panetta, Obama's pick to replace Gates, told a Senate panel Thursday. "I think there are some signs that if we continue the pressure, if we stick with it, that ultimately (Muammar) Qaddafi will step down."

Gates told NATO on Thursday that "we're in this thing with our allies to the finish."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney also said the president will "endeavor to answer" all the questions about the mission the House posed to the White House with its resolution last week.

But while claiming consultations with Congress have been "extensive and constant," he also described the Senate's latest resolution as unhelpful.

The Senate resolution, like the House resolution, makes a blunt threat in stating Congress has the "constitutional prerogative to withhold funding for any unauthorized use of the United States Armed Forces." It also calls on the White House to provide information on 21 separate issues within 14 days of enactment.

It's unclear whether and under what conditions Congress would start to use funding as leverage.

Christopher Preble, foreign policy analyst with the Cato Institute, noted that it would be "rare" for Congress to follow through on a threat to cut off funding for military operations -- and he said the Pentagon budget is so large the military could potentially shuffle money around to keep the mission going.

He described the congressional debate as a "principled argument," but one worth having.

A key concern of lawmakers is that the president has flouted the War Powers Resolution, which requires the president to seek congressional authorization for military intervention within 60 days.

More than 80 days into the mission, resolution co-sponsor Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said the president has "clearly" violated that provision. He expressed concern that the White House is setting a risky precedent.

"We're faced, in my view, with the prospect of a very troubling, if not downright odd, historical precedent that has the potential to haunt us for decades," Webb said on the floor of the Senate.

"The issue for us to consider is whether a president, any president, can unilaterally begin and continue a military campaign for reasons that he alone has defined as meeting the demanding standards of a vital national interest worthy of risking American lives and expending billions of dollars of our taxpayers' money."

As Webb and his colleagues push their resolution, the Senate apparently has put on hold a separate resolution meant to express support for the mission. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had intended to work on the measure Thursday, but with discontent bubbling to the surface he has postponed the action likely to next week, according to a panel member.

Some lawmakers are urging the United States to step up its military effort with the express goal of forcing Qaddafi from power. And they caution against the move to rein in the president.

"In Libya, there are signs that Qaddafi may be starting to crack. But the odds of a stalemate remain far too high. I believe U.S. strategy should be to reduce those odds as much as possible and quickly force Qaddafi to leave power rather than hoping we achieve that objective with minimal effort," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Thursday at the Panetta hearing.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at the same committee hearing asked Panetta about the consequences of Qaddafi remaining in power.

Panetta said that outcome would send a "terrible signal" and indicate that the United States' "word isn't worth very much."

Graham agreed with Panetta, and said he couldn't wait to vote for him.”

According to the Pew Research Organization more Americans blame wars than domestic spending or tax cuts for nation's debt:

“Far more Americans say that the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has contributed a great deal to the nation's debt than say that about increased domestic spending or the tax cuts enacted over the past decade.

Six-in-ten (60%) say the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has contributed a great deal to the size of the debt. About four-in-ten (42%) say the same about the condition of the national economy.

By comparison, just 24% say increased spending on domestic problems has contributed greatly to the nation's debt and even fewer (19%) cite the tax cuts enacted over the past decade. While half or more say spending and the tax cuts contributed at least a fair amount to the debt, 31% say increased domestic spending did little or nothing to increase the debt and 38% say the same about the tax cuts.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted May 25-30 among 1,509 adults, finds widespread opposition to number of proposals aimed at reducing the deficit and the national debt, including reducing funding for the states for education and roads (73% disapprove) and gradually raising the Social Security retirement age (59%).”

In another report from Pew Americans say they remain wary of global engagement:

Major events in the Middle East -- including tensions between the U.S. and Israel, growing political unrest in many Arab countries, and the death of Osama bin Laden -- have had little effect on public attitudes toward the region.

Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, far more Americans continue to say they sympathize with Israel rather than the Palestinians (by 48% to 11%). These opinions are little changed from recent years.

A plurality (50%) says Barack Obama is striking the right balance in the Middle East situation, while 21% say he favors the Palestinians too much. There has also been no change in these views over the past year; in April 2010, 47% said Obama struck the right balance and 21% said he favored the Palestinians too much.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted May 25-30 among 1,509 adults, finds that the public continues to cast a wary eye on the turmoil sweeping the Middle East.

Just (23%) say the changes occurring in the Middle East will be good for the United States; about as many (26%) say the changes will be bad and 35% say they will not have much effect.

There also is considerable skepticism that people in the Middle East will benefit from the protests and calls for change: 45% say these actions will not lead to lasting improvements for the people living in these countries while 37% say they will lead to lasting improvements. In early April, the public was split over whether the protests and calls for change would lead to lasting improvements for people in the region (42% will lead to lasting improvements, 43% will not).”

While foreign wars have cost us billions they are not the main cause for our $1.65 trillion deficit or the $15 trillion dollar national debt. The public is not seeing things as they really are. They are victims of the old cognitive dissonance syndrome — ignoring facts in order to keep their closely held beliefs.

Our involvement is Libya was not directly addressed in the Pew polls, but I would guess that the public opinion would run about the same as it does for Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East on the whole.

Obama has not made a convincing case for our involvement Libya. We are carrying the bulk of NATO’s water in Libya with no clear mission or exit strategy. I the American public could not buy George Bush’s reason for getting rid of Sadam Hussein I cannot see them buying the reason for eventually spending a billion dollars to rid the world of Muammar Gaddafi.

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