Will R2P become NMP

August 2011


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 …

We are not there yet – but let us hope soon that we can drift away to let the Libyan people sort it out. Less Powell Doctrine; more George Pollock.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Foreign Policy, Hard Power
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  • Victor

    Comment deleted by admin

  • AT1 Charles H. Berlemann Jr


    Why not do some critical thinking about the subject at hand instead of just opening mouth and inserting your foot with a comment that doesn’t contribute to the discussion. Also, inserting the author is usually considered poor form as well in cultured society.

    That said, if you go back in what the good CDR has posted before on this subject, he has been against this operation from day one and not by using “right-wing talking points” as you seem to infere. Rather he used some healthy logic and with good supporting evidence showed that this was a mistake to begin with. This post only seems to support some more the evidence that this Libyan operation was a mistake to begin with and why our foreign policy decisions based on this operation have made this nation only look like a fool.

  • ewok40k

    Well, one thing I’d like to say is that unless there will be United States of Europe – a federal state – the Europe has no chances of generating the kind of power projection capability the US has. There are broadly 3 kinds of European militaries:
    1 – pocket sized (Scandinavs, Benelux, etc.) – basically unable to even protect themselves versus larger neighbors. See WW2 Germany vs them – oh yest tat was a little extreme case, but should eg France or Germany invade Benelux it could have proceeded with ease.
    2 – FGP – Former Great Powers – UK, France, Germany, Italy – with enough spending level they can project power quite reasonably well (Falklands, France in Africa), though lack of clear and present danger since 1989 is steadily eroding that capability.
    3 – in between – a small group consisting of Poland and Spain, with Romania as weakest member. The states can relatively adequately protect own territory, but power projection potential is minimal, and in case of non-former-colonial Poland and Romania generally seen as useless outside of supporting the US in its empire management. Note that only reason for that help is seeking to balance Russia’s appetite for hegemony, and should US interest in the region become less than “military response to agression”-level, all the resources will be focused on home front. Georgia lesson is well remembered.
    Combined european fleet under an unified command could send into battle – Charles de Gaulle, Principe de Asturias, Giuseppe Garinbaldi, and, until recently 2 UK light carriers, some 10 SSNs and scores of SSKs, destroyers and frigates. Not on USN level, but certainly good power. With every state having its own indiosyncratic policy this becomes simply powerless. Imagine like Texas and California having their own foreign policy and armed forces? right it could end in fighting on opposite sides of the intervention, in say Israel-Egypt war.
    Conclusion; Barring some sort of conventional military threat – a pan-islamic state in Middle East or resurgent Russia on a level that goes beyond flashy prototypes and rusting cold war arsenals, don’t count much on Europe in the military terms.

  • I think the performance of the non US allies, including my own country Belgium, wasn’t that bad. Our air force destroyed approximately 100 hard targets, half of them at night. I didn’t even know we had night fighting capabilities! The Danes and Norwegians did very well, UK and French too. No reason to rest on our laurels, but even with constrained budgets Europe was able to pull something off.

    Yes, NATO is an asymmetrical alliance with one partner providing the backbone. But on the face of the planet there still is NOTHING even remotely comparable to NATO.

    I wrote a couple of months back that the regime would crumble and it did. Is what it’s going to replace it better? Very likely not. But then this episode is merely another chapter in the unfolding conflict between the West and the islamic world. I don’t give a flying shit for so-called democrats among the Libya ‘freedom fighters’ – that they are not, but I think it’s been good we sped things up towards the unfolding of said conflict, at the same time honing our skills. It was a very useful experience.

  • Salty Gator

    Victor, your characterization of the CDR’s analysis as “summarizing right wing talking points” is inaccurate. I wish that it were accurate! The fact of the matter is that the right has lacked a coherent support of or argument against the Libyan action.

    We wasted aircraft, time, money, and almost wasted two pilots lives (F-15 crash) on an undefined mission set in Libya. R2P is not an end state. Muammar was in the box, cooperating, and we blasted him anyway, while we let Syria, a prime ally of Iran and a facilitator of US casualties in Iraq, skate free.

    BT BT

    A billion dollars spent, and the unique capabilities that we furnished may soon go away from the US inventory as well! Think about it…EP-3, mid air refueling (KC-X, anyone?), force level Electronic Attack, amphibious ready group supported strike? All are already on the chopping block or stand to suffer significant losses in Fy12!

  • GIMP

    Our responsibility to protect extends only as far as our citizens, vital interests, and treaty obligations. All we have done is prove that we’re willing to beat up the bad and the weak, but the bad and the strong we leave alone.

    The possibility of eventual success doesn’t mean this was ever the right thing to do. It wasn’t, and it certainly hasn’t been worth one billion US dollars.

    NATO will be as incapable as we allow by always stepping in and filling capability gaps. Maybe with less capability NATO will do less stupid stuff.

  • Rich B.

    This is the thin line we draw between support of treaties and National Self Interest. For the UN to be effective the member states must agree and enforce their mandates. (trust me I have no faith in the UN)

    However, the UN called upon all Member States, in particular States of the region, acting nationally or through regional organisations or arrangements, in order to ensure strict implementation of the defense of the citizens, enforcement of the no-fly zone and the arms embargo.

    NATO members felt compelled, regardless of how altruistic it really was (yes we know the French and British source of oil) to support the UN Mission and the wording of the NATO treat is, “They seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area. They are resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security.”

    While it does not seem to make sense we would persecute Libya and not Syria; Syria is not in NATOs backyard. Libya could very loosely be argued is.

    Refugees from North Africa often flee across the Mediterranean Sea during times of turmoil. Many of our NATO allies are already suffering from the impact of massive immigration along these same routes. Combine this impact with the economic impact. Our allies do feel threatened and thus pull upon the strings of the treaties we have tied ourselves to.

  • Rich, Shipmate;
    You state, “While it does not seem to make sense we would persecute Libya and not Syria; Syria is not in NATOs backyard. Libya could very loosely be argued is.”

    Consult your list of NATO members and then download a map of the Med area. Take a deep breath, nothing personal, but ……

    Look. At. Your. Map.

    Syria borders Turkey. Turkey is one of the most important members of NATO. You can walk from NATO to Syria, literally.

    Net one below in headwork. In the profession of arms, along with logistics and history, one of the essential fundamentals is political geography.

    Please cycle circuit breakers and try again.

  • Dean

    Why Libya and not Syria? Well, there are a lot of reasons, but the fact that Iran says that they’ll fight against NATO for Syria, but not Libya, is important. http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=9006060106