It is a steady, unending – yet poetic chant.

It takes three to make one.”

Analysts say the French military is in crisis, strained by restructuring and budget cuts, and tested by three simultaneous conflicts abroad.

Not since the early 1990s, with Bosnia and Rwanda, has the French military been so stretched. “France no longer has the military means to match its political ambitions,” ran a front-page headline in newspaper Le Monde. And recently, a French admiral was admonished for saying the country’s only aircraft carrier could be nonoperational for all of 2012 if it did not return from the Libyan coast for maintenance.

That’s an exaggeration, says Jean-Pierre Maulny, of the Paris-based International Strategic Research Institute. But Maulny says it will be hard to keep this momentum up for the long or even the medium term.

“It’s true that the Charles de Gaulle needs routine maintenance, and while we have enough pilots to continue flying sorties over Libya, we cannot for the moment train new ones,” Maulny says. “The intervention in Libya is led by the Europeans, and countries will start dropping out and public support eroding if we do not find a political solution soon.”

Stalemate and political crisis. Never a good combo for European military adventures. Didn’t I mention a “whiff of the Suez Crisis” five months ago? Nevermind.

There were two things that surprised me early on in this whateverwearecallingit; 1-we would hit ground targets early and often – eliminating a need to even worry about the Libyan Air Force after a few days; 2-that the French would go in at such a heavy level. I think we can thank SECDEF Gates for making sure this went strong early – and the French for showing leadership.

BZ to the French, but the French Admiral in question, Admiral Pierre-François Forissier, is exactly right. The Spanish carrier is enjoying tapas somewhere, the British no longer have that capability, and after a strong start the Italians have left for coffee. The American aircraft carriers are off doing other things.

That leaves one French carrier to do the heavy lifting. As anyone who has been on a carrier knows – you need to come in after awhile. No one is there to take her place with a French flag.

A good reminder to all as we look to cut – one carrier isn’t really one carrier. For any kind of sustained operation – it is but a fraction of a carrier presence. If a nation needs a sustained presence, especially any one that has a respectable operational tempo, you need a bench.

The French have done well, no one should think anything of Big Charles leaving station when she does. As for the Libyan muddle itself, I’ll let Admiral Mullen, repeating what he has said since April, speak for me,

“We are, generally, in a stalemate,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mullen told a press briefing in Washington billed as his last before retirement.

As the Europeans one-by-one fall off and the Gadaffi family holds on through SEP – then what does that stalemate become? Where does “luck” go in one of our Lines of Operation?

Rhyme. Always rhymes.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Hard Power
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  • Grandpa Bluewater

    And the tar baby don’t say nuthin”…

  • Salty Gator

    The situation will likely only get worse when DSK becomes the next French President.

  • ewok40k

    Ahem, trying to defeat enemy via airpower alone was done already in Vietnam, 1965-73.
    What has made Wehrmacht so successful early in WW2 was their conquest were quick. It was when the sheer size of Russia and naval superiority of Britain stopped the series of one month conquests that the machine started to jam.
    Of course there are rare examples of decisve airpower use – Japan in WW2 and Serbia in Kosovo – but in both examples there were other forces at work (naval blockade and threat of Soviet invasion, threat of NATO ground forces eventually moving in)
    Getting the native forces to do your land element might work, but it needs decisive insertion of spec ops for training, coordinaation with own air forces and ground recon. It also depends a lot on the quality of said native forces, and on relative quality of enemy forces.

  • Cap’n Bill

    Clearly had the US not been deeply committed in other faraway places the NATO struggle in Libya would have been quick and successful. Let’s remember one essential lesson. Protracted, slow warfare in faraway places spells trouble down the road.
    It seems easy now to recognize that national power and political support must not be strained by heavy committment far away from the public eye and without their substantial support.

    When was the last time the USA has been involved for 10 years in such dung holes of the world ?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Clearly? Don’t think so. Nothing is clear about Libya, nor has it been clear from the start. Regime change? Yes. No. Maybe. Negotiate with the “rebels”? Yes. Wait. No. US combat operations? Nope, none. Except where we are. Don’t blame Iraq or AFG for any of that.

    When was the last time?

    Haiti. Nicaragua. The Philippines. Puerto Rico. Vietnam. Panama. South Korea.

  • Byron

    Gosh, URR, I can’t believe you forgot this! When the man asked,
    “Clearly had the US not been deeply committed in other faraway places the NATO struggle in Libya would have been quick and successful”, the first answer would have been, “NATO”, for 60 years now, in lovely places like Bosnia and Kosovo.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    I thought he was asking about where the US has been “involved”, but yes, good point. NATO has increasingly meant War by Committee, with addled decision-making and lack of resources/resolve.

    See also: Afghanistan, 2005-2009. They asked for the mission. They got it. They punted it badly. We are cleaning it up. Again.

  • RickWilmes

    “See also: Afghanistan, 2005-2009. They asked for the mission. They got it. They punted it badly. We are cleaning it up. Again.”


    What is the U.S. strategy for cleaning up Afghanistan?

    As Bing West points out in his latest book, “The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan”:

    “In ten years of warfare, the U.S. military had not designed a set of offensive tactics to keep the insurgents in the mountains off balance. Nor had the U.S. senior staffs come up with a counter to Taliban attacks from its sanctuary.  Partial barriers to channelize the infiltrators had not even been tried, while hoping for more cooperation by the Pakistani army had proved fruitless.  The U.S. logistic supplies for Afghanistan flowed primarily through Pakistan. The Pakistani army occasionally stopped the logistics flow in order to make a point about its independence.  You cannot win a war when a determined enemy has a sanctuary next door.”. (p. 128)

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Why don’t you ask that question of our CJCS or Commander in Chief?

    It is entirely unrelated to the fact that NATO badly botched the mission in AFG between 2005 and 2009.

  • RickWilmes

    As far as I know, the CJCS and the Commander in Chief are not engaged in this discussion.  BTW, I think Bing West sums up the CJCS’s views quite nicely on p. 145 in the already mentioned book.
    “The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Michael Mullen, was fond of saying “we can’t kill our way to victory.”  That was political drivel.  If the Taliban weren’t killing people, there wouldn’t be 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan.  It was comparable to a police chief saying, “Arrests are not the solution to crime”- a vacuity sure to result in fewer arrests.  War centered upon killing.  The grunts knew that, even it their own generals did not. Killing was not the solution, but it was the means to the solution.
    When generals bemoaned killing, they were trying to make themselves seem morally and intellectually enlightened, while indicating their shallow understanding of what their own grunts were doing day after day.”
    Your assertion that NATO screwed up their mission from 2005-2009 does not address the essence of the problem in Afghanistan.  Again from Bing West,
    “”How do you rate the Afghan army?”
    “No consistency.  Good and bad, all mixed in,” Gardner replied.  “Same for their officers.  Some were appointed due to tribal connections or because they fought against the Russians.  This particular company commander won’t go on patrol.  Says he’s too old too get killed.  If he retires, he gets no pension.  So he’s retired in place.  The system is clogged.  The askars get along with the people, but they won’t do much if we didn’t kick them in the arse.  Most are from the north and don’t speak Pashto.”
    The sergeant major had identified the crux of the problem.  The British and Marines were professionals; the Taliban were ideologues.  The Afghan army was neither.  It was not professional, and thus able to prevail by superior skill. And it was not ideological, and thus able to prevail by dedication to cause.” (p. 148)
    Finally, the following facts from Bing West should also be pointed out.
    “Afghanistan was singularly different from any prior insurgency.  Far from employing sticks of coercion of any sort, the Western coalition offered only aid and sympathy to hostile villagers.  The United States possessed precision firepower, with sensors that tracked any individual out of doors.  Yet in 2010, less than 5 percent of aircraft sorties dropped a single bomb, despite over one hundred reports of troops in contact daily.  This forbearance was without historical precedent.  The coalition imposed upon itself the strictest rules in the history of insurgent warfare.” (p. 160)
    Getting back to Cap’n Bill’s comment, I have the following questions for URR, the Commander in Chief and CJCS.  How many of the aircraft sorties over Libya have actually dropped bombs on targets?  If the 91 % of the aircraft sorties that did not drop bombs in Afghanistan were used to drop bombs on targets in Libya would we be stuck in a stalemate with Libya?

  • UltimaRatioReg


    The questions you address are strategic policy questions that the CJCS and COCOM should be intimately involved in. However, the former has instead spent a great deal of time feathering his political bed and pushing personal agendas upon DoD.

    West, though not universally praised for his assertions, may be onto something with his assessment of the pitfalls of “enlightened” commanders who shy away from bringing overwhelming force to bear against our enemies. But they are following the political leadership’s vision, instead of providing the military function of foreign policy.

    But… that still has little to do with the fact that NATO made a soup sandwich out of AFG after requesting to take over the mission in 2005.

  • Derrick

    Who’s going to post the article on the claimed maiden sail of the Chinese aircraft carrier?

  • Derrick
  • UltimaRatioReg


    Thanks for stealing my thunder…. besides, Lex covered it at his place.

    SWMBO can pay you my stipend for the day.