The Europeans’ Libya campaign has stalemated. Now what?
The Europeans’ military campaign has stalemated. The enemy threatens to triumph. American assistance is desperately needed.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron probably imagine that they are reliving the bleakest days of World War I or World War II. Can today’s Napoleon and Churchill battle back to victory?
Actually, the spectacle of Sarkozy and Cameron at war should be a show on Comedy Central.
The two leaders decided to atone for their nations’ past support for authoritarian governments by attacking Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi. They rallied U.S., European, and Arab support by draping their plan for regime change with a humanitarian mantle.
Then everything fell apart. Gaddafi, the toast of European leaders only a few months before, didn’t “just leave,” in President Barack Obama’s inimitable phrase. The rebels turned out to be more mob than army; allied air support prevented their defeat but could not give them victory.
Worse, France and Britain didn’t have enough aircraft to maintain bombing operations. The two countries now are begging their allies, including the U.S., for more support. Western policy can best be characterized as a disaster.
The West’s war in Libya well illustrates Lord Acton’s dictum that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Libya threatened no one outside of its borders. There was no unique humanitarian crisis. Despite allied rhetoric, nowhere had Gaddafi committed mass murder, despite his well-earned reputation for ruthlessness (and his past crimes). The opposition was largely unknown, with radical elements. The rebels’ military capabilities were limited.
Nevertheless, Paris and London rediscovered their martial roots and began campaigning for a “no-fly” zone in Libya, supposedly to protect civilian populations from attack. In fact, intervention would be on the side of the opposition with the objective of ousting Gaddafi. A European diplomat admitted to the New York Times: “The no-fly zone was a diplomatic thing, to get the Arabs on board.” The Arab League backed away when it realized the extent of the West’s ambitions.
The U.S. and Europe attacked the Gaddafi government simply because they could attack the Gaddafi government. Gaddafi had given up his nascent nuclear program and the capability to build longer-range missiles, leaving himself vulnerable to outside coercion. (The lesson has not gone unlearned in Tehran and Pyongyang.) The allies cheerfully assumed victory would be a mere matter of flying.
One problem was the intra-Libyan balance. Gaddafi proved to be more resilient than expected. The opposition proved to be less organized than hoped. Allied support only evened the odds, lengthening the conflict. Like past civil wars, this conflict proved to be bad for people and other living things.
Moreover, the rebels weren’t angels. The opposition initiated military action and, where victorious, was none-too-gentle with those accused of backing the other side. Alliance officials even threatened to bomb the rebels to protect civilians, raising the prospect of NATO planes saving fuel by simultaneously attacking forces on both sides.
Worse, NATO-Europe is not the military behemoth it wants to believe. As Jed Babbin pointed out, many members of NATO never will be serious military powers, and those that could be serious military powers don’t want to be. Explained James Russell at the Naval Postgraduate School: “The European countries have made a strategic-level to disarm essentially.” Even Britain and France are retrenching militarily. No wonder Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of America’s “unique capabilities.” In practice, NATO stands for North America and The Others. Only (North) America really matters.
Libya has not changed European commitments. No NATO member will treat Libya as a serious, let alone existential, danger. If the Red Army were pouring through the Fulda Gap headed for the Atlantic, the Europeans might, might, undertake extraordinary efforts. But to transform Libya? Messrs. Sarkozy and Cameron apparently saw themselves leading a grand coalition to victory in the Mediterranean. In their dreams.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?