Archive for the 'NATO' Tag
While I certainly sympathize with the thrust of John Kuehn’s title in his energetic article about the situation in Afghanistan, I’d like to offer a somewhat different perspective from my position as the Supreme Allied Commander for all NATO operations, including the 140,000, 50-nation coalition in Afghanistan.
First, I want to agree with John’s laudatory comments about our NATO / ISAF Commander in Afghanistan, my Naval Academy classmate and close friend General John Allen; as well as the commander of NATO’s Training Mission – Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Dan Bolger. Both are doing superb work in truly demanding assignments.
In terms of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, while there are some similarities, the differences are far greater, and far more encouraging than the situation back in 1989.
In comparison to the Soviet Union, the ISAF coalition has devoted great resources to human capital and infrastructure development, and we have devoted significantly greater troop numbers for kinetic operations; and we already are well underway with a responsible and managed turnover of security responsibilities to Afghan National Security Forces. Most importantly, the international community’s commitment to Afghanistan after the majority of ISAF forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2014 is real and tangible: detailed planning is in progress now in NATO.
If you dig around a bit, you can find more and more about the Tactical Lessons Identified (learned is a totally different concept) from the Libyan operations. Like all real world operations, when looked at with a clear eye you can learn what theories were good in practice, what old lessons you needed to remember, and who was being too optimistic or too academic when it came to the realities of combat.
Robbin Laird has a great article out based in a large part on his interviews with the French military. What is so interesting is to hear from other nations what we are used to hearing from our own – expeditionary and littoral combat. This is good and healthy for all – and exceptionally valuable to the military professional who is willing to listen.
Make sure and read it all – but here are the things that stuck with me the most;
A main point underscored by the French military was the impact of the political process on military planning. The French President clearly saw the need for the operation and had worked closely with the British Prime Minister to put in place a political process which would facilitate a Libyan support operation for the rebels. But until NATO received the UN Mandate was obtained, no military action could be authorized. This meant that there was little or no planning for military operations with the result that, in the words of one French military officer, “we were forced to craft operations on the fly with little or no pre-planning or pre-coordination. We did some on our own but until the authorization for action was in place, we could not mobilize assets.”
That is why it is so critical that you have a Commander identified early in a process with a Staff in place. Many an Operational Planner has received the, “We are not supposed to do any planning for this. So, I want the core planning team to just … what shall we call it … talk about this. Don’t plan … just, ahem, talk. Have the Chair see to me in four hours about your, ahem, discussions …. ” speech with a nod-nod-wink-wink from the N/J/CJ-5.
There is no reason to go without a plan on the shelf … unless … you don’t have one. If you don’t have one in work – then someone needs to have a serious talk with their planning staff. Even with a pick-up team – you should already have a plan in work once a crisis rears its head. Sounds like they had something to work with – but given the sloppy start to the Libyan operations; no shock we had to improv a bit at the start.
…. and now – one of my favorite topics, NSFS.
An aspect of the operation of the helos off of the Mistral is noteworthy as well. The frigate with which it was deployed used its guns to support the helo deployment. The guns provided fire suppression to enhance the security of the insertion of the helos off of the Mistral.
The ship’s C2 is first rate and was part of the link to the air fleet for receiving and processing information to shape an intelligence picture in support of strike operations. This demonstrated that integrating maritime with land-based air can provide a powerful littoral operations capability, one which may prove very relevant to the United States as it rethinks the relationship between the USAF and the USN-USMC team in shaping 21st century operations.
Hasn’t this been true since, well, we had aircraft flying early last century? The critical importance and flexibility of the naval gun known for centuries? Modern combat from The Falklands, to the Haiphong gunline, to Five Inch Friday, to Libya reminds us – have your gun ready. None of this is new or shocking – but the fact we have to relearn fundamentals is a reminder how much we need to focus on them – “we” of course being the USA and its allies.
For the veterans of the Balkan operations in the ’90s to AFG the last decade – some habits never go away.
First, rules of engagement were being proposed by the partners of France in NATO that were “ridiculous,” to quote one French officer. “We received from NATO sources the directive that there were to be NO civilian casualties from our air strikes. My view was, why not just not do airstrikes. We pushed back and insisted on something sane: ‘No excessive civilian casualties from NATO air strikes.’”
Here is one final thing that I think we need to ponder on in depth; UAV/S. Too many people are enamored by the PPT and the promise. Not content with having an improved tool – they want to think they have a new tool that can do it all. It is hard even in peace for them to accept the very real bandwidth, loss rates, and other issues – what is harder to explain to the UAV/S true believers are the tactical limitations.
FROM UCAV-N to BAMS – the transformationalists really think that the F-35 will be the last manned fighter. Kind of the same mentality that I read in a book after the Falkland Island War about the Harrier stating that it was likely that the Harrier will ever see combat again. Silly, but there it was. The Future does not like to be taunted. She is touchy like that.
In that light – everyone needs to keep this reality check in mind. In this case, our French friends are exactly right.
… the notion that unmanned systems are going to replace the pilot is ludicrous in a dynamic targeting situation. If we are reluctant to give a guy with SA in the pilot’s seat authority, why are we going to give some guy in Nevada or Paris looking through a soda straw the authority to do dynamic targeting.”
From the beginning of the Libyan conflict, American involvement was always stressed as being there because of the “unique capabilities” that we had which our NATO allies did not. Most of us understood the electronic surveillance and given the land-based nature of the air campaign – the tanker requirements – but there was much more.
John Barry over at The Daily Beast has a summary of that is worth a ponder;
The Libya campaign was a unique international effort: 15 European nations working with the U.S. and three Arab nations. The air offensive was launched from 29 airbases in six European countries. But only six European nations joined with the U.S. and Canada to fly strikes against Gaddafi’s forces.
According to two senior NATO officials, one American and the other European, these were the critical U.S. contributions during the six-month military campaign:
• An international naval force gathered off Libya. To lower the U.S. profile, the administration elected not to send a supercarrier. Even so, the dozen U.S. warships on station were the biggest contingent in this armada. …
• U.S. tanker aircraft refueled European aircraft on the great majority of missions against Gaddafi’s forces. The Europeans have tanker aircraft, but not enough to support a 24/7 air offensive averaging, by NATO count, around 100 missions a day, some 50 of them strike sorties. The U.S. flew 30 of the 40 tankers….
• When the Europeans ran low on precision-attack munitions, the U.S. quietly resupplied them. (That explains why European air forces flying F-16s—those of Norway, Denmark, Belgium—carried out a disproportionate share of the strikes in the early phase of the campaign. The U.S. had stocks of the munitions to resupply them. When Britain and France, which fly European-built strike aircraft, also ran short, they couldn’t use U.S.-made bombs until they had made hurried modifications to their aircraft.)
• To target Gaddafi’s military, NATO largely relied on U.S. JSTARS surveillance aircraft, …
• U.S. Air Force targeting specialists were in NATO’s Naples operational headquarters throughout the campaign. …
• U.S. AWACS aircraft, high over the Mediterranean, handled much of the battle-management task, acting as air-traffic controllers on most of the strike missions. Again, the Europeans have AWACS, but not enough crews to handle an all-hours campaign lasting months.
• Eavesdropping by U.S. intelligence—some by aircraft, some by a listening post quietly established just outside Libya—gave NATO unparalleled knowledge of what Gaddafi’s military planned.
• All this was crucial in supporting the European effort. But U.S. involvement went way beyond that. In all, the U.S. had flown by late August more than 5,300 missions, by Pentagon count. More than 1,200 of these were strike sorties against Libyan targets.
He has plenty of other things to chew on … and this that I had not heard before.
• When a desperate Gaddafi began to launch Scud missiles into towns held by the opposition, a U.S. guided-missile destroyer offshore negated his offensive by shooting down the Scuds.
News to me. A quick google search gets nada but this,
The missile, designed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, has a range in excess of 200 miles — though it is not clear where it landed, the paper reported. It was detected by a U.S. Aegis destroyer off the coast of the war-torn country.
I would think that if a USN DDG/CG took out a Scud or 4 we would hear about that – but based on the PAO performance this summer from the Gulf of Sidra to the Horn of Africa – I wouldn’t be shocked if we hadn’t heard anything. Media gets a lot wrong – so perhaps not a single VLS door opened. Maybe they just saw and reported – maybe “something else” took care of the problem – c’est une mystère.
Detected? Sure – but intercepted? If so, the Aegis mafia is getting slow in its old age….
Well – silly me, I have been reading too much US press and mostly the Daily Mail and Telegraph from the UK. I should have read these two items from The Guardian (!) of all places.
At least four of the rockets have been intercepted seconds before they were due to impact on the city, reportedly hit by missiles fired by a US navy cruiser operating in the Gulf of Sirte.
The missiles’ failure to reach their target appears to be because of the US navy, with reports that a cruiser operating in the Mediterranean has been using Aegis missiles to intercept the Scuds each time.
So far the US navy has hit four out of four, …
Those two articles came out on the 24th and 25th of this month. With all this bad and conflicting reporting out there – I am sure that the Navy/DOD is trying to do something to tell the actual story. So, let’s go over to DVIDS and see what we can find.
You know, at heart I am an optimist.
Hmmmm, what is at DVIDS … all Irene almost all the time. Let’s do a Libya search. Page one is all talking-briefing, talking-briefing (if I were a reporter on a deadline, am I going to sit through all those PPT briefings? No.) … and then on page two – we have some Navy news. First entry from the 30th titled, I kid you not, “Navy continues operations over Libya.” Hey, it’s a picture of a CG … and the caption is …
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill is seen underway in the Arabian Gulf.
Fail. Does anyone study geography anymore?
OK, simply a mistake on the editor’s part. No one is perfect. I will try not to go all Salamander on them. That was, after all, only picture 1 of 2. Let’s look at the second pic; hey – it is a EA-6B! And the caption is …
An EA-6B Prowler assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron 134 banks over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson as it enters the landing pattern. The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is deployed supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
Fail. Now this is just getting insulting.
Keep trying. Page 3 is more briefings and PPT … bla, bla, bla. On page 4, wait! What do we have! Pictures titled, “Navy and Marine Corps aircraft strike Libya ” Now we’re cooking with gas. There is a picture of a helo aircrewman doing his nation’s bidding and the caption is …
Airman Travis Fletcher, aviation boatswain’s mate (fuels), fuels an aircraft tow tractor on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge. Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn is the U.S. Africa Command task force established to provide operational and tactical command and control of U.S. military forces supporting the international response to the unrest in Libya and enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. UNSCR 1973 authorizes all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya under threat of attack by Qadhafi regime forces. JTF Odyssey Dawn is commanded by U.S. Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III. (Photo by: Petty Officer 3rd Class Scott Pittman)
There are so many layers of fail here – let me just focus on what is in our face. Since when are aviation boatswain’s mate wearing flight suits and flight helmets? I don’t see a fuel line … that is a funny looking tractor … Hmmm. Download the high-res and zoom in …
Fail. That Shipmate is an aircrewman from HSC-22 (I can see the warfare pin but not his name; and if you look at the expression on the other Sailor’s face on the other side of the helo through the window, that is about what my expression is right now), and it looks like he is trying to secure something or closing the door of his helo. HSC – does not strike anything ashore. I quit – three strikes and you are out. CHINFO call your office.
As the Navy taught me though – even you you decide to withdraw, execute a fighting withdraw. So, I clicked the Libya tag to see what was there. Hey, great stuff about the USS SCRANTON (SSN-756) coming home – but that is about it.
Go to navy.mil and there is plenty of fun stuff about Irene, “green” energy, a pic and story with the CNO in his favorite role, and an ecosystem of NWU being approved under rules best understood by a Ottoman bureaucrat. That’s about it.
Go to the Navy’s facebook page and …. nothing after five pages of updates.
So, somewhere our Navy did something that our Sailors should be proud of – so – BZ, even if you only watched the Scuds go up and then down. We know you did more and want your story told – but something tells me that even the simple UNCLAS stuff someone wrote is dying in some control freak’s inbox, being watered down to nothing so when it is released the story will be over – so you’ll have to wait until no one will notice. That has to be it – otherwise what is the reason that our Navy is not telling the story of its Sailors efforts in the Med, HOA, and the Arabian Sea – or for that matter even making a basic check to make sure that the captions match the pictures that match the theater of operations?
This is simply one thing; disrespect. An open disrespect for our deployed Sailors by supporting commands, staff lines, PAOs, and the shore establishment.
Our deployed Sailors deserve better, their families deserve better – and the taxpayer deserves to know what their tax dollars and money borrowed from their children and grandchildren is being used for. Additionally, we cannot complain that the “Navy story” isn’t understood when we don’t even make an effort to tell it ourselves.
Enough of that; back to the topic at hand – as an interesting side-note; this is about what we suspected all along.
To lower the U.S. profile, the administration elected not to send a supercarrier.
Yep. Once you have a USA CVN – you suck all the O2 out of the room. If we had gone with Plan Salamander back in March and put 2-4 off the coast … yea … no chance for a low profile job then. Then again, it would have ended sooner but it wouldn’t have allowed the Europeans to smoke check their abilities either. In that light – good job if that was the goal.
As a matter of fact – that is the best part of the operation, intentional or not. Europe’s residual ability to conduct military operations even in their back yard in on display as impotent without the USA. That is not a good thing for them or the USA – but at least now there are fewer and fewer people who can effectively deny that fact. Once we reach that point, then we can have adult conversations with our allies.
In any event – will someone who was actually there find someway to get the story out?
UPDATE: USNIBlog gets results! DoD finally provides the answer today – with a push from our friend Phil Ewing. Major national/international papers publish something …. silence. USNIBlog puts out a question – Phil picks it up – and BEHOLD; DoD spokesman Col. Dave Lapan, USMC speaks.
Nice work all.
Now, CHINFO …..
At this moment of flux, it is really pointless to try to make anything about the tactical level in Libya. The Battle of Tripoli will work itself out, as will the conflict over time. We can pick it apart then in reasoned hindsight. There are other things a few levels out at the POL/MIL level that are a lot clearer and worth discussing. The Top-4 that come to mind:
1. R2P theory vs. facts: Something that came out at the beginning; “Responsibility to Protect” known by the shorter, R2P. The concept has been embraced by decision makers such as US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice. A form of “Humanitarian Imperialism” – it is something that over the last few months we have heard less of. The reasons are clear; Libya still isn’t worth the bones of a Pomeranian Grenadier, and both sides are responsible for the deaths of untold numbers of civilians. So much was heard early that we were there to “protect civilians,” but time has shown that some civilians are more important than others. There is no appetite anywhere for Western boots on the ground to execute “R2P” in Libya’s cities. As long as African migrants are kept in Africa and the oil flows – NATO will be more than willing to move from R2P to NMP – Not My Problem. Few really believed that was the reason for intervention anyway – at least the serious.
2. Gendarmerie Military: Our NATO allies simply cannot execute significant kinetic operations without American assistance from a material perspective. When sustainable logistics and baseline C4ISR are defined as “unique capabilities” – then the facts of NATO non-USA military capacity should be very clear. Beyond the short-tour mentality of many – in the expected budgetary challenges as the Western welfare state collapses in front of our eyes, their capabilities will only diminish more with time.
3. Got Carrier? As was covered well in last month’s Proceedings by Dr. Norman Friedman, the essential effectiveness and efficiency of the CV/S/N once again has been proven. Land based air has its place – but any distance makes the ability to provide persistent effects from the air over the battlespace prohibitively expensive compared to a carrier off shore. We’ll talk about that more this Sunday on Midrats with Dr. Friedman, tune in.
4. Semper Realpolitic: Along the Mediterranean coastline, there are two Muslim nation that have been run by autocratic families for decades. Over those decades, these nations supported terrorists soaked with the blood of thousands, including Americans. Within the last decade – motivated after the US-led invasion of Iraq – one of those nations decided to get rid of its entire inventory and development programs of weapons of mass destruction. It decided to help with migration problems, and generally tried to move from menace to moderate.
The other took the a different path. It fed and actively supported foreign fighters in to Iraq, directly responsible for the death and maiming of thousands of American men and women. It expanded its WMD programs including an aggressive nuclear weapons programs.
In 2011, they both experienced popular uprisings and killed their own citizens while trying to put down these uprisings. One of these nations though was not a highway for African migrants and it did not have oil. One nation was attacked, the other not. Lesson to despots everywhere: trying to work with the West and playing nice will do you no good if you have oil or have a migrant highway through your land. It is better to be closed, brutal, and contemptible of the West regardless of what you have. Just look at the West’s actions towards Libya vs. Syria – and the lesson is clear.
Whatever happens in Libya will happen. No one outside a few fringe-types will light a candle for the Gadaffi family of thugs. They have been a blight on the planet for decades. What happens next will be up to the Libyan people. We should all wish them luck and hope that something positive can come out of this. From the West’s end, we should call the dethroning of Gadaffi “victory” and leave it at that. Everyone should support that effort. Victor Davis Hanson said it well,
… the only thing worse than a unwise war is losing an unwise war …
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?
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.
“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.
By Mark Tempest
At a time when already small NATO defense budgets shrink while it is actively engaged in two combat operations decades after the Soviet treat faded into history – what is NATO and where does it stand? Is NATO “transforming” – and if so in to what?From the ashes of the former Soviet Union – Russia and its near abroad are starting to re-establish their identity – what are the implications?
Join “CDR Salamander” and me with our guest for the full hour, CAPT Thomas Fedyszyn, (Ph.D.), USN (Ret.) – Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and Chair of the Europe-Russia Studies Group.
It may get lively.
Join us here or download the show later from BlogTalkRadio or iTunes.
Speaking a little over a week ago, President Obama repeated what we have heard over and over concerning the high level of American involvement in the Libyan campaign,
“We will provide the unique capabilities that we can bring to bear to stop the violence against civilians, including enabling our European allies and Arab partners to effectively enforce a no-fly zone,”
What are those “unique capabilities?” Most have focused on the tactical aspects, there is much more than that. Of course, no one has the satellite access, TLAM inventory, Heavy Bombers, or Tanker, or Heavy EW/ES like we do. That is part of our “unique capabilities” – but not the long-pole.
Why are USA capabilities “unique?” That answer is the simple: Western Europe has but a shadow of the military capability it once had. The long slide started with the Suez Crisis, and has culminated with the last gasps of the Western Welfare State’s economic foundations that today have drained defense budgets to absurd levels as a percentage of GDP – our traditional European allies simply cannot initiate and sustain intense expeditionary combat operations without us. Put peace keepers in small, steamy, quasi-failed former colonies in Africa? Sure. Sustained Joint-Combined combat operations without the USA – notsomuch.
Libya isn’t even a large country – though geographically large, its population of 6,419,925 is concentrated along the coastal road. In contrast, the European Union – which BTW has its own military structures – has a population of 501,259,800. Yes, Libya has 1.2% of the population of the European Union – yet the defense of European access to oil and secure maritime borders is being led by a North American (Canadian), and being fought air-to-ground mostly by other North Americans (USA). Yes, the EU is not NATO and NATO is not the EU – but as we know whose interests are primary of concern here; this works for me.
Let’s make it even more lopsided. Libya has a GDP of $62.36 billion. The EU has a combined GDP of $15.95 trillion. Let me adjust that for you; $15,950 billion. Yes, Libya has ~.4% of the EU’s GDP … yet the EU needs North American leaders, military forces, and borrowed money to defend its interests.
Ponder that a bit – I’ll come back to it.
Military power isn’t the most important “unique capability” of our nation. No, the most important are leadership and will. No other nation has the institutional ability to plan, organize, or lead a large scale Combined-Joint operation. That is the military side; the political side is that our allies are used to having our leadership and our top-cover when it comes to major military operations. Not only do we have the ability to bring the most to the fight, but regardless what political party is in power, we usually have the political ability to absorb the inevitable complaints, second guessing, gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes by the usual suspects that comes with military operations in the post-Vietnam era. Parliamentary systems such as those of our allies are not as sturdy as our system. These nations also have generations of leaders whose first instinct when it comes to major military actions is to look to Washington. Habits are what they are. They have become dependent – and for a variety of reasons we are happy with that.
I would like to lay down another marker before the President’s speech. As we discussed on Midrats yesterday with U.S. Naval War College Professor of Strategy, Thomas G. Mahnken, Ph.D., the Europeans have some realpolitik reasons for this conflict. The Libyan conflict is not about peace and democracy – though they make good talking points. If they were a concern, NATO jets would be flying over as many nations as their tankers could take them. No, this is about something much simpler. This is about the free flow of oil to Europe at market prices and trying to keep a lid on illegal immigration from Africa.
The fact that NATO is taking this mission is interesting as well. NATO has transformed – perhaps in ways not fully understood by many. In Libya, NATO is not defending the alliance from outside aggression as it was charted to do. It is not helping another alliance nation to prosecute those who attacked it, like ISAF is in AFG. No, NATO has signed up for something very different. Without any of its member nations being threatened, NATO is executing offensive operations beyond its borders supporting one side against another in a civil war. Quite the transformation.
As usual with NATO operations – this would not be possible without American forces and American money. Is it in the American interest?
MR. GREGORY: Secretary Gates, is Libya in our vital interest as a country?
SEC. GATES: No. I don’t think it’s a vital interest for the United States, but we clearly have interests there, and it’s a part of the region which is a vital interest for the United States.
If anyone read or listened to SECDEF Gates earlier this month, this should not be a surprise. Hopefully tonight, the President will clarify this to the American people.
Even our Canadian friends are trying to figure out their nation’s reasons.
Why is Canada at war in Libya? You won’t get the answer from our elected leaders. They’re too busy fighting an election to explain it to us. You can’t count on the opposition parties to raise awkward questions, either. They have better things to do at a crucial time like this. Besides, it’s just a little war. It will be over soon, unless it isn’t. If all goes well, perhaps Canadians won’t notice that our political class has committed us to an open-ended military action in North Africa without a clue about what the mission is, who’s in charge, or how deep the quagmire might get.
The short answer is that Canada is in Libya because our allies are. But, ideologically, this is very much a made-in-Canada war – rooted in a doctrine that has been tirelessly promoted by foreign policy liberals such as Lloyd Axworthy and Bob Rae, and vigorously endorsed by some of Barack Obama’s closest advisers, especially Samantha Power at the National Security Council.
This doctrine is known as the “responsibility to protect” (R2P for short) and was endorsed by the United Nations in 2005. It mandates that the “international community” is morally obliged to defend people who are in danger of massive human-rights violations. It’s rooted in Western guilt over the failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda. R2P is the moral underpinning of the war in Libya, and it’s the reason why people such as Paul Martin, Roméo Dallaire, Mr. Rae and Mr. Axworthy have been so amazingly eager for us to rush into battle.
So have Ms. Power and her sister warriors Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, and Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN. Together, these three convinced Mr. Obama of the urgent moral case for war in Libya. Ms. Power is the author of the enormously influential book A Problem from Hell, about Washington’s failure to prevent genocide in the 20th century. Her counterpart in France is the glamorous philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who flew to Benghazi, met the rebels, and persuaded French President Nicolas Sarkozy (who badly needs a boost in the polls) to back them.
R2P – another acronym that helps people avoid defining words, Is it what Mickey Kaus in The Daily Caller calls, “humanitarian imperialism.” Where do you stop? As we are in IRQ, AFG, and now Libya while our military budget starts to shrink and the Western sovereign debt crisis expands; I don’t know about you, but my war-card is about full.
With all the above swirling about as we wait for the President to speak on the subject – as I often try to do when things in the world get fuzzy – I go to the writings of great men. In this case, the Father of our Country; President George Washington.
On a regular basis, people need to read his farewell address in full – but this extended quote is worth pondering in some depth. The points he raise are as relevant today as they were then, perhaps more so.
The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The Nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the Government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The Government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times, it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of Nations has been the victim.
So likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite Nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the Nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained; and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens, (who devote themselves to the favorite nation,) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.
Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient government, the period is not far off, when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality, we may at any time resolve upon, to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.
Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?
It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.
Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.
What habits have we and the Europeans picked up since WWII and the Cold War? Do they apply in the second decade of the 2st Century? Is it in the American interest to have our children borrow money from the Chinese so we can send our armies though the earth searching for dragons to slay, to do the fighting for others who will not do it for themselves?
Hopefully, President Obama will help us all understand this a little better tonight.
As a side-note; if I can I’m going to liveblog the President’s Libya speech tonight at my homeblog so if you are so inclined; join me.
Our co-blogger here at USNIBLog – Admiral Stavridis, USN, SACEUR – sent along this tweet earlier today,
#NATO is now in charge of the Arms Embargo off the coast of #Libya. I designated a top Italian Admiral to run it. http://bit.ly/gXSq7s
Yes, he is on Twitter – and if you don’t follow him on Twitter you are making us both sad.
I am going to put up my next “Big Pixel” Operation ODYSSEY DAWN (OOD) post on Monday – but for now I want to focus on this.
This NATO effort has been named Operation Unified Protector and its mission is to assist the international community in reducing the flow of arms and material prohibited by the arms embargo into and from Libya in order to reduce acts of aggression against the civilian population.
NATO’s response to the situation in Libya is based on three fundamental principles: added value from the Alliance to the existing international efforts; a clear legal mandate and strong regional support.
Operation Unified Protector will assist in reducing the flow of arms, related material and mercenaries to and from the coastal waters off Libya only.
NATO nation ships and aircraft will conduct operations to monitor, report and, if needed,interdict vessels and intercept aircraft where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that they are carrying cargo in violation of the arms embargo or suspected of carrying illegal arms or mercenaries.
Joint Forces Command Naples is designated as the command headquarters with Vice Admiral Rinaldo Veri of the Italian Navy, Commander of Maritime Command Naples, in command of the arms embargo operation who will, in turn, appoint the Task Force Commander at sea.
I’m going to stick with NATO terms here; so work with me and don’t get all nit-picky if you are using a different Operational Planning school – we’re working fundamentals of Operational Planning here and its all close enough. Also, this post will be almost as hard to follow as the C2 structure we have in place – don’t blame me, I’m only as poor of a writer as my subject. Ahem. Let’s dive in to this.
Under the Operational Commander, you have three major Component Commanders; Land Component Commander (LCC), Maritime Component Commander (MCC), and Air Component Commander (ACC). There can be variations on the theme – but these are the big three we’ll talk about.
Here we are, almost a week into OOD and …. well …. we have a hybrid structure that has been American, until now.
To review: COMAFRICOM is the COCOM with C6F CNE, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III apparently serving as the JTF Operational Commander. I say apparently, as this C2 structure is a dog’s breakfast at this point with unconnected and uncoordinated lines. Who has OPCOM, OPCON, TACOM, TACON of who is so out of joint (pun intended) to everyone that until yesterday Norway grounded its F-16s in Crete simply because it had no idea who was who and why.
Now we have something different. As OOD has American stink on it and everyone seems to want to call this something different, NATO is using Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR (OUP) for the Maritime aspect of this and will have to do. That gives us at this point another custom C2 structure with both USA and NATO – and perhaps – some Coalition of the Willing structure for ACC and a replacement for COMAFRICOM in the future.
Sorry I don’t have a C2 diagram for you, but it would take at least two hours to make and would need at a minimum a 4-foot by 6-foot whiteboard to put it up correctly and it would still be wrong inside half a day.
On the Maritime side though, NATO JFC Naples is an Operational Level Commander who also happens to be the same person with a different hat, USA C6F Admiral Samual J. Locklear, III, USN.
With his NATO hat as JFC Naples, ADM Locklear has a LCC, MCC, and ACC. In Naples is his MCC, Maritime Command Naples who is taking the point in OUP and will appoint someone else to command the Task Force at Sea. Funny, I would think COM MCC Naples Actual would – but perhaps other things are in play that will flesh out later. Not a tidy C2 for now, but what one is in coalition operations?
According to his website, ADM Locklear’s ACC is in Izmir, Turkey – so I don’t think that will be a player. His LCC is in Madrid … and let’s not speak of that.
The announcement of a MCC for OOD/OUP is good news as it means that things are slowly being patched together. We are a little closer to being able to turn it over to a Coalition Command structure as the CINC states he wants to take place – if we can have someone step up to Operation HOT POTATO.
Where to? For now we have the relatively benign MCC job under an Italian Admiral in NATO’s Command Structure – I think the ACC will probably be American but not NATO when all is said and done for both structural, training, and practical reasons that I will outline in a broader context next Monday or Tuesday.
LCC. Well, let’s just hope we don’t need one of those. Ever.
So far, this has a whiff of the Kosovo operation in a way; a patch-up/pick-up operation with little to no preliminary Operational Planning (though there was time for it if there was POL/MIL guidance earlier than the last minute). SACEUR is a tough job on any day – with AFG and now OOD/OUP … it just got more interesting – but without sounding like a smack; we’ve got the right man for the job in place.
UPDATE: Things look like they have settled even more broadly than the above last night. With Turkey deciding to stop opposition – to my pleasant surprise considering what they had been saying over the last couple of weeks – things are looking much “cleaner” and the operations is mostly falling under JFC Naples, ADM Locklear, USN, and his Component Command Structure.
Strategic headquarters of NATO, Supreme Headquarters Allied Power Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium, would oversee the general operation, the source said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
The mission of the air would be monitored in Izmir, Turkey, but the daily tactical operations in a series of short Renatico Poggio, the diplomat said. Turkey has blocked a new effort Wednesday night to give NATO a role in the no-fly zone because it requires an end to the bombing campaign led by a coalition led by the United States, Britain and France.
JFC Naples the Operational Level Command, and ACC will be Izmir. Heh, I owe someone a beer.
There looks like we may have some OEF-vs-ISAF like parallel structure with the Libyan operation. If you listen to the end of NATO’s Secretary General’s statement, he mentions continues coordination with “Coalition” forces. Maybe he means something else – but it wold be a shame if we have parallel C2 structures.
I would offer though that in 2011, NATO should really have more details out than this – things may change but that is all we know right now.
UPDATE II: Looks like we have split the Air Component Command in to two parts. One doing air-to-ground, the other the air-to-air. Yes, a parallel command structure within a Component Command. Messy – but isn’t everything political?
As NATO takes over, a Canadian air force general will command most of the Libyan air war but not the nastiest bits – bombing ground targets and attacking Moammar Gadhafi’s tanks – reflecting an ongoing split in the alliance.
Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard will initially run only the no-fly zone over Libya. An Italian admiral will command the multinational naval blockade offshore. The punishing and controversial bombing runs and air-to-ground strafing will remain under U.S. command until NATO establishes rules of engagement acceptable to reluctant alliance nations such as Germany and Turkey.
U.S., British, Canadian and French warplanes conducting air-to-ground strikes will remain under the command of U.S. Admiral Samuel Locklear. In military jargon he is “double-hatted” – serving as commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe as well as joint task force commander for NATO’s southern command in Naples. Gen. Bouchard serves as his deputy in the latter role, and handing day-to-day running of the war to the Canadian will take Adm. Locklear out of the limelight.
Read it closer, again, on who is doing what. Yep.
As NATO takes over, a Canadian air force general will command most of the Libyan air war but not the nastiest bits – bombing ground targets and attacking Moammar Gadhafi’s tanks – reflecting an ongoing split in the alliance.
Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard will initially run only the no-fly zone over Libya. An Italian admiral will command the multinational naval blockade offshore. The punishing and controversial bombing runs and air-to-ground strafing will remain under U.S. command until NATO establishes rules of engagement acceptable to reluctant alliance nations such as Germany and Turkey.
The air-to-air portion is 98% over. Nothing more to do. That “combat” will go from USA to NATO with a nice Canadian helo pilot in charge (who BTW is an outstanding General Officer FWIW – good guy to have there).
There is still a fair bit of wet work to be done air-to-ground … so … who is commanding that and doing most of the sorties? Yep, USA. We will need two white boards to diagrams this C2 structure … if you can. Unity of Command? Don’t be silly.
We have a “go” – in a fashion – for a NFZ-L. CONOPS, COA, ROE, etc; the most important things we really don’t know what we will have. What we do know at the moment is what nations are already throwing their hat in.
CAN: 6 CF-18.
GBR: Unknown number of Tornado and Typhoon fighters. Possible E-3D and tanker support, perhaps others. Frigates HMS CUMBERLAND and HMS WESTMINSTER.
FRA: Bases in southern France & Corsica. CVN FS CHARLES DE GAULLE with 35 aircraft perhaps.
USA: We can bring the the multitude or European based aircraft to bear; if we want to. We have the KEARSARGE ESG in the area. The Big E and her CSG are within reach in a few days; if we want it to. BATAAN ESG will deploy early and can lean in; if we want it to.
ESP: Access to airbases and unspecified aircraft and navy ships.
ITA: Accesses to airbases and support “without reserve” – whatever that means.
BEL: 6 F-16.
QAT: Unspecified support – the only Arab nation so far that I can see coming out post NFZ-L approval.
DEU, I guess, decided they had enough of the Libyan desert a few decades ago – and our other allies I presume were out of OPTAR or some other excuse. As for the rest of NATO – well, this sounds about par.
Before Friday’s meeting, NATO allies were still divided on whether to impose a no-fly zone. While the United States, Britain and France strongly backed the idea, Germany remained cautious and Turkey expressed opposition.
A diplomat said that NATO nations reached consensus on Friday on the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, but failed to fix details about how partners will take part in.
NATO ambassadors are expected to meet over the weekend, the diplomat added.
Meanwhile, some NATO nations have expressed their willingness to participate in the deployment of a no-fly zone over Libya.
We shouldn’t expect more from them. Those who could, have. The rest will take a couple of months to figure out how they can do enough to get their flag outside the headquarters – but not enough to take any blame if things should go wrong.
We also know that there is hard math at work here. Physics and engineering cannot be successfully fudged for long. Almost all the viable non-USN particiapation is shore based. Distance is not your friend, especially with the short legs of many of the fighters being offered. Tanker support will be a huge requirement in money and material if you want a serious NFZ-L – as will heavy AEW. If you want, as some have mentioned, a “No-Drive Zone Libya” (NDZ-L), then you are asking for dramatic increase in the Combined Joint Statement of Requirements (CJSOR) – and will need boots on the ground to do it right.
The role and participation by the USA is still behind closed doors, but unless something unusual happens, we know how this will happen in broad terms;
Michael O’Hanlon, a defense expert at the Brookings Institution, said the United States “frankly might wind up playing the biggest role” because Britain and France may be unable to get sufficient aircraft to Libya quickly enough.
“A key part of the role the U.S. is going to play here is going to be like one of President Obama’s previous jobs: community organizer,” said Brian Katulis, a Middle East expert at the Center for American Progress.
Frank knows time-distance it seems; Brian is a cheeky monkey.
With the atrophied military capability and shaky will of the European nations – not to mention their budget “issues” – any type of significant military action in the Maghreb will require the USA to do the heavy lifting. We are the indispensable nation – and when it comes to any sustained action from the sea, the USN is the indispensable Navy.
If you have to project any type of power ashore with ranges such as here (see post from 01MAR) – the CVN is the indispensable ship. As we have waited to the 11th hour to do anything, I still stand by my statements from 17 days ago; without more than 1 CVN you will not have an effective NFZ-L. We don’t have that yet, and may never.
So, if that is where we stand; are we just relying on hope and best case scenarios? Is the NFZ-L just for show and a half-hearted effort? Are we ready for the time and effort for a sustained NFZ-L? Are our allies? Are we going to just let the Europeans fail as they did in AFG from ’06-’08 and then try to fix it later?
Finally there is this questions that many seem to want to avoid. We set up a NFZ-L and Gadaffi still wins in the face of it; what is our Branch Plan, or Sequel? What are the second and third order effects of an ineffective NFZ-L that results in a Gadaffi win?
Well – hopefully we won’t have to figure that out. Smart professionals are working that – but before everyone starts moving their little-bits around the map – listen to SECDEF Gates one more time.
Another dark room – let’s all step in together.
UPDATE II: Pictures are important and tell the story of the costs of delay. A couple of weeks ago, Gadaffi only had the area around Tripoli and a scattered town or two. The facts on the ground have changes significantly. Quite the challenge (click for larger).
In support of Chris’s post, let’s dig at this a bit more.
Via FT; once again, when our prostrate, financially starved, and materially deficient allies say this,
“We must not tolerate this regime using military force against its own people,” David Cameron, UK prime minister, said. “In that context I have asked the Ministry of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff to work with our allies on plans for a military no-fly zone.”
What they really mean is, “America, will you please do the heavy lifting? We will try to help with what little we have, but be a good sport.”
Want to make this an international effort? I won’t even start to discuss the UN route – as to get to that point is just too difficult and like Darfur, by the time someone can craft a deal, there will be no one to save. Anyway, really?
You can also think NATO, but I think that is off the table already.
… Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister of Turkey, which has the second largest standing army in Nato, on Tuesday rejected intervention by the western alliance in Libya as “unthinkable”.
“Can you even consider such an absurdity?” Mr Erdogan said at a conference in Germany when asked about calls for Nato to intervene in Libya. “As Turkey, we’re against this, this can’t even be talked about, it’s unthinkable.”
Russia and France also opposed military action, with Paris saying humanitarian aid and cutting off Col Gaddafi’s funding sources should be the priorities.
Once again – NATO devolves to the lowest common denominator, even in their own back yard.
Coalition of the willing it is.
No serious person is talking about putting boots on the ground to engage in ground combat the Libyan rebel forces are more than willing to do – I think the most aggressive thing inside the “possible” bubble is a no-fly zone in Libya (NFZ-L) so Gaddafi’s air force cannot do their will on civilians and rebel forces.
Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman called last week for NATO countries to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent air attacks by Mr Gaddafi on opponents who have wrested control of large parts of the country from him.
According to Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, US military planners are working on “various contingency plans … [and] repositioning forces to be able to provide for that flexibility once decisions are made”.
Let’s make some initial draft Planning Assumptions (PA) assuming that the CINC directs the establishment of a NFZ-L, here’s my first three:
- PA-1: The ENTERPRISE CSG and KEARSARGE ESG now in the Red Sea successfully transit Suez.
- PA-2: Tanker, AEW, and EW/ES aircraft have full basing rights in Sigonella, Souda Bay, at British bases in Cyprus.
- PA-3: ITA, ESP, and GBR are willing to contribute Navy and Air forces.
Of those allies with the most pressing concern in the Mediterranean, we already know TUR, and FRA are non-players. GRC? Child please. There goes your most of your Med nations. Who else can help that isn’t already on holiday? GBR, ITA, ESP, with perhaps a dog or cat from other NATO air forces up north may help, but they have very limited reach and a very shallow bench. Even with the USAF, you cannot effect a sustained NFZ-L using ground based aircraft – even if you limited it to the Tripoli and Benghazi. Especially when you can bet a paycheck that ROE will require visual ID and sustained observation of suspect activity; no. Add to that the requirement for CSAR, and no again.
There is only one way to do this: Carrier Aviation. American Carrier Aviation.
One carrier cannot do this alone unless you have very low ambition and expect very little in the way of tasking. You should have one station to the east, one to the west. If you are talking big deck CVN – you really need two to keep one station for any length of time. To keep two stations, four – but if you can get some limited land-based air support for some cycles – maybe get by with three?
Let’s be realistic. We are not going to get four CVN or even three. Two then? I vote no. We’re tapped out.
If you had plenty of support and just a few AAW CAPs up – we could get by with just one … if for only a short time. Hope? Feh, not a plan – so be modest in your ambition.
OK, let’s go to NFZ-L with the Global Maritime Partnership we have, not that we wish we had.
Would we give a station to our allies? Of the remaining folks, GBR, ESP, & ITA have CVS, right? Well, the Brits don’t do CVS counter-air anymore – and the Italians and Spanish carriers? How many sorties can they do? How about if they had a lot of land based fighter support? How many fighter aircraft need to be stationed at Sigonella supported by how many tankers to cover Tripoli? Same question about Souda Bay and Benghazi. The British bases on Cyprus?
UK officials said they could use of a British military air base in Akrotiri, Cyprus to enforce a no-fly mission. “Akrotiri would be very useful if we wanted to deploy,” said an official. “That would seem most logical.”Although fixed-wing aircraft appear to be depleted, British officials said the main concern was that Col Gaddafi could use helicopters to mount bombing raids on opponents.
Thanks, but … look at that transit – tanker and AEW/ES only. That is about the same distance as from Masirah, Oman to Southern Afghanistan.
There is the problem – but we have a solution, the one a lot of smart people are going to try to make work. We will have do a limited NFZ-L with Big E and the KEARSARGE ESG. Not the way it should be done, but good enough for show.
On alert, using limited CAPs and relying on ready aircraft. Our allies may be here and there and will be able to help on the margins – but they have neither the ability or political will to do much more. They have proven over and over that they are less concerned about their backyard than we are – either that are they are just too used to us solving their big problems – and if we don’t – they will just hope for the best.
My guestimates on the back of a notepad are very rough – but probably within a standard deviation. Do them yourself. The tyranny of distance and allied defense budgets are beyond our control but are critical planning factors you cannot get around.
Once you ponder that some, remind yourself and others the importance of a CVN – and use this other little tool in discussions of the utility of CVN. Off Libya soon may be the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65), commissioned on 25 NOV 61 – almost 50 years ago. On the western side of Libya is the former Wheelus Air Force Base. How is that base working out for us?
UPDATE: SECDEF Gates throws some cold water on Prime Minister Cameron, and seems a bit off key with SECSTATE Clinton.
The U.S. and allies have discussed the prospect of imposing a no-fly zone over the North African country to prevent Col. Gadhafi from using air forces to strike at protesters. But Mr. Gates on Wednesday made clear the U.S. military would have to launch pre-emptive strikes to destroy Libya’s air defenses if President Barack Obama ordered the imposition of a no-fly zone,
“Let’s just call a spade a spade,” Mr. Gates said. “A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya.”
Mr. Gates’s words were the strongest public indication of skepticism within the administration about establishing a no-fly zone, especially without broad international support.
In recent days, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spoken supportively of a no-fly zone. Asked about the apparent contradiction between Mr. Gates’s comments and Mrs. Clinton’s remarks, Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said Wednesday that the no-fly zone is being “actively considered.”
I think SECDEF Gates has reviewed COA-1, COA-2, & COA-3 and realized the risk-reward is just not where it should be. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do something. Right call.
To paraphrase the Great Bismark; Libya is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier.