As days wandered in to weeks, then months, and now quarters – two recent events have given notice that NATO has a very short window to finish what it started in Libya.

As with most conflicts – and especially this one – the reason for engaging in conflict can change as the facts change. The reality is that this conflict was never clearly defined from the get-go. As a result, everyone should be patient as decisive points, goals, objectives, end states fade in and out, appear/disappear, and change with the tides.

Once the decision is made to commit your nation and its allies to war – all that is important is victory. There is no substitute for victory, as anything but victory brings the dangerous attractiveness of weakness, and undesired second and third-order effects that must be avoided.

As this conflict is presently structured today – with non-USA aircraft doing much of the kinetic action – the next 90-days will hopefully be enough for USA to thoroughly consider, under the planning assumption that Gaddafi is not killed, COA-1 (Re-Americanize) and COA-2 (Fade). By the end of SEP, we will reach a decision point.

Why will we reach a decision point?

The first to channel the Elector of Bavaria at Blenheim was Norway;

Norway 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, the government said Friday.

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.”

Once that momentum starts – others will follow. Two things will drive this; materiel & will.

There are navies that are designed to fight wars, to fight in short bits and/or as part of coalitions, and there are those that are designed to show the flag. The French do not have an issue of national will in this conflict. No, even though their navy is on the strong side of the middle type of navy, they do have a problem – matériel.

… France (is) indicating it will need in the autumn to withdraw the Libyan mission’s only aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, on virtually continuous operations since last year — with no replacement in the offing.

“The elephant in the room is the imminent departure of the French carrier, given it has been flying 30-40 percent of all NATO strike sorties,” said Tim Ripley, of Jane’s Defense Weekly.

“It’s a looming problem, so sustaining this operation, particularly if it’s going to grind past September or October, is going to be a problem.”

In the absence of other allies coming forward with strike aircraft that could be flown from land bases — which would necessitate a fleet of refueling tankers only the United States could provide…

We’ve reviewed the European CV/CVN challenge before and the inefficiency of land-based air for this operation – the problem is clear. Given President Obama’s statements of late – one should not expect a USN CVN to take its place. Truth in this business can change, and in spite of the President’s position and that of some in Congress today – we need to keep the option open to, as we have had to do in Afghanistan, re-Americanize the Libyan operation. A CVN or two can fix this very fast if the President wants it to.

So, we find ourselves here hoping for a hope that Gadaffi’s luck will run out. No one ever let me put “Luck” in my OPLANs … but perhaps things have changed.

This fall, if the Congress and/or the President won’t allow USA to do more of the kinetics to replace retreating and worn out Europeans as per COA-1, – then COA-2 it will be. COA-2 will lead to nothing but ugly – but we knew this going in. If things didn’t end quickly, the Europeans would get weak in the knees. More and more understood this as the weeks turned in to months. Almost everyone by now must see it. Baring just plain dumb luck or sudden resolve by Europe – COA-2 leads to defeat. Defeat is not an option.

If Gadaffi lives to see the weather turn cooler and NATO continues to limp and stumble as weak horses do, then we should execute COA-1. Support the President and Congress to end this, and end it right. Finish what we started (yes, we – without the USA, Europe could not and would not have started this). Finish it and then hand post-conflict over to the Europeans – all of it as this is in their interest, not ours. They wanted this done – give it to them and then pivot.

When will we know we reach that decision point, and what do we do after that?

Britain’s top naval officer, Adm. Mark Stanhope, warned Monday that his nation — its military hobbled by severe budget cuts and the continuing cost of the Afghan war — would face hard decisions if the Libya mission is not resolved by September.

“If we do it longer than six months, we will have to reprioritize forces,” he said, indicating the current commitments cannot be maintained indefinitely.

Britain’s chief of defense staff, Gen. David Richards, insisted Tuesday that Britain can continue operations in Libya as long as it needs to. But another senior NATO official echoed Stanhope’s comments, saying that if the alliance’s intervention in Libya continues, the issue of resources will become “critical.”

Gen. Stephane Abrial, the senior NATO commander, told reporters at a NATO conference in Serbia that “at this stage, the forces engaged do have the means necessary to conduct the operation.”

But he noted that “if the operation were to last long, of course, the resource issue will become critical.”

“If additional resources are needed, this, of course, will need a political decision,” he said.

That political decision will be in Washington, DC. The worlds largest debtor nation will have all the empty pockets looking at her – and then we should take a deep breath, borrow the money from the Chinese, finish it, and then walk away.

What will follow? Odds are – not Jeffersonian Democracy or even Kemalism. No, review the foreign fighter figures from Iraq. Odds are we won’t like it – but we fathered it and will have to accept it for what it is.

Given all the above, there are many things to learn. Lets talk about what I mean about pivot.

For even the most die-hard Atlanticist, some things are becoming unavoidably clear. George Will sums it up.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. military spending has more than doubled, but that of NATO’s 27 other members has declined 15 percent. U.S. military spending is three times larger than the combined spending of those other members. Hence Gates warned that “there will be dwindling appetite and patience in” America for expending “increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.” Already, U.S. officers in Afghanistan sometimes refer to the NATO command there — officially, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) — as “I Saw Americans Fighting.”

After a recent NATO attack on a tented encampment where Gaddafi has met foreign leaders, the New York Times reported: “The desert strike appeared to show the alliance’s readiness to kill Col. Gaddafi. A NATO statement described the target as a ‘command and control facility.’ But apart from small groups of soldiers lurking under trees nearby with pickups carrying mounted machine guns, reporters taken to the scene saw nothing to suggest that the camp was a conventional military target.”

In March, Obama said that U.S. intervention would be confined to implementing a no-fly zone: “Broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.” By May, Obama’s Bushian mission was to make Libyans “finally free of 40 years of tyranny.” After more than 10,000 sorties, now including those by attack helicopters, NATO’s increasingly desperate strategy boils down to: Kill Gaddafi.

Then what? More incompetent improvisation, for many more months.

Disgust with this debacle has been darkly described as a recrudescence of “isolationism,” as though people opposing this absurdly disproportionate and patently illegal war are akin to those who, after 1938, opposed resisting Germany and Japan. Such slovenly thinking is a byproduct of shabby behavior.

I think in time, more and more Americans will join supporting Plan Salamander for Europe. I learned it from Eisenhower. Soak it in – and get ready to pivot.

“Because we had had our troops there, the Europeans had not done their share,” President Eisenhower said. “They won’t make the sacrifices to provide the soldiers for their own defense.”

As if on cue;

Iveta Radicova, Slovakia’s prime minister, says bluntly that defence is “not a priority”. She wants to improve her country’s competitiveness and reduce unemployment.

The results? Behold Libya. Behold the caveat laden forces of ISAF and the piracy forces of the Horn of Africa. Do all but two or three in NATO lack the key to anything – will?

SECDEF’s speech in Oslo linked to above needs to be listened to more and more. Then we need to execute some tough love for Europe. Enough Americans have died for Europe – enough American treasure spent to subsidize their sloth. Friends always lean in to protect friends from outside threats – but they cannot protect their friends when their friends won’t even make the effort to defend themselves – or for that matter have no inclination to.

This is not isolationism as some think. No, this is a mature strategic concept for the 21st Century. The Cold War and the Soviet Union are far behind us. Sailors joining the Navy today and the MIDN who will show up at Annapolis this fall were almost all born after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. As decades of inertia rattle to a halt, let us shake hands with our friends and go home. They are strong enough to stand on their own feet if they want to. If they don’t want to, then let history take its course. If they see a threat and make an effort to defend themselves – then we should train and equip our armed forces to be able to help. USA based with global reach – but only for those who will first help themselves.

We need to pivot from the past in Europe. You can’t force someone to take their own defense seriously – but you can create the conditions for them to reassess their sloth. I think it is time.




Posted by CDRSalamander in Foreign Policy
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  • Horatius

    One of the important things to take away from this is that there are times when the fate of persons, nations, civilizations actually does depend on timely decisions *made*at*the*right*time. The story of England and France vis a vis Nazi Germany is illustrative. Basically, England and France lost their geopolitical struggle with the forces of socialism/fascism. Not just lost, but were decisively defeated (France) or on the path to being so (UK). Now, they both ended up winning in the end–but only because there was a deus ex machinae in the form of the United States.

    Those kind of things don’t usually come around, historically speaking. What is usually the case is that someone or some group–in the space of decade, year, month, or ever day–makes the wrong call, or series of them, and there is no recovery, no getting back to the status quo. Instead, it all becomes gone with the wind. Gaul becomes France, Britain becomes Angle-Land, the glory that was Rome fades, Coptic Egypt becomes Muslim Egypt, Byzantium becomes Constantinople becomes Instanbul, and once you have accepted the Dane-law you never seem to get rid of the Dane. Success is never guaranteed, and failure is always an option.

    Timely decisions made at the right time matter. Whether it be over decades, years, months, or days. Don’t think you always have all the time in the world, and that past mistakes won’t be held against you or impact you. Because they very well may, and may in fact be the biggest driver of events–not those things *you* think are important.

    Do the right thing when the right thing needs to be done. And sometimes you may only have 24 hours to figure it out, or to recognize what is truly important. So be prepared for when the moment comes.

  • Horatius

    Oops–the phrase is actually “That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld / You never get rid of the Dane.” And I think the entire point of Kipling’s poem is pertinent enough to put in, with my take at the end:

    It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation,
    To call upon a neighbour and to say:
    “We invaded you last night – we are quite prepared to fight,
    Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

    And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
    And the people who ask it explain
    That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
    And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

    It is always a temptation to a rich and lazy nation,
    To puff and look important and to say:
    “Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
    We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

    And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
    But we’ve proved it again and again,
    That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
    You never get rid of the Dane.

    It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
    For fear they should succumb and go astray,
    So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
    You will find it better policy to say:

    “We never pay any one Dane-geld,
    No matter how trifling the cost,
    For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
    And the nation that plays it is lost!”

    The point I’d like to make is not just to stand up to aggression when necessary (the obvious point)–but to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done, not when you want to do it. That is statecraft. If it means fight the Dane today, that’s what it means. But it can mean more.

    If we don’t need to fight in Libya, then now is the time to not fight there, not after we have failed. If now is not the time to give a leg up to Islamists, then don’t–no matter the easy temptations to give in to the voices that demand we do something.

    The true point of the poem is to do the harder right–and at the right time. Don’t necessarily go looking for fights-whether military or moral–but don’t refuse them if they come looking for you (or seem to have a hankering to do so down the road). If a nation is to long endure, it has to constantly steer its way through the surfs of history, knowing the course and direction it would wish to go–or be overturned willy-nilly instead, just because someone thought the tiller could take care of itself no matter what else they did.

  • Matt Yankee

    So stop paying the Dane Pakistanis, stop paying the Dane North Koreans and STOP paying the Dane Mexicans. Sounds like some Dane common sense.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Too bloody true, Dane it!

  • James

    “— officially, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) — as “I Saw Americans Fighting.”

    LOL

    I agree with the Yankee,

    God thats depressing.

  • Drake1

    Make Libya a playground for al-queda – no thanks. If we kill Gaddafi – we own it.

    Let this be a lesson to future [edit by admin] US Presidents on not what to do.

  • GIMP

    Nothing good can come of this; only bad. It’s hard to understand the reasoning behind us putting ourselves in a position that could require us to occupy yet another country.

    We should be concentrating on getting every person and piece of equipment out of Iraq and not even leave the door open for them to ask us to stay. Likewise Afghanistan.

    That should only be the beginning. The next step is to completely rethink how we fight wars like this. We should never occupy a country unless we plan to keep it and we should never let the Army lead asymmetric wars again after completely gooning up Iraq and Afghanistan. USN, USAF, CIA, and SOCOM should lead asymmetric wars from now on.

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