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Libya: Aligning means to ends

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COMMENTS

4 May 2011 13:45

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq.

The string of posts on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) intervention in Libya has been given greater relevance with the reported death of members of the Qadhafi family, from an air attack on what appeared to be a residence.

Whether this represents a change in policy by the UK, which apparently mounted the attack, or merely an attack on what NATO considered to be a legitimate target, remains to be seen. It is also not clear if the deaths actually occurred or whether the attack on the house is being cleverly exploited.

Crispin Rovere asks the quite legitimate question, 'Is it better if Qadhafi wins?'. He refers to my earlier contribution by noting that '...some now advocat(e) disregarding UN resolution 1973 in favour of invasion...'.

My earlier post addressed the question of the misalignment of strategy and tactics, as has almost every other post on this subject. Strategic misalignment has been a theme of mine for years and I gave Iraq and Afghanistan as examples of previous misalignment, both resulting in insufficient resources allocated to give even the vaguest hope of achieving the strategic objectives. 

Crispin implies that I favour invasion of Libya. That is not what I advocate, nor was it my intention to give that impression. It would have been my preference to leave Libya to the region, in particular to Arab states or to Europe, and let them sort it out. I suspect that was the preference of the US.

However, due to years of military under-investment by most states (except the US), much of the world now lacks the military capability to wage modern, moral and legal warfare ('war among the people'). As a result, the US is forced to remain involved in its third simultaneous war, and NATO bumbles along.

The point that I have made in relation to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya is that, if you are going to get involved in any war, you must do it right.

The most basic act is to align strategic objectives with the tactics you are prepared to use and the resources you are prepared to deploy. Failure to do so has resulted in the stalemate we face today. Unless we are lucky and Qadhafi politely rolls over, NATO faces some very difficult choices.

I would have let Libya run its course with the imperative to intervene being on the region, preferably on Libya's Arab neighbours. However, NATO has intervened and cannot un-intervene in the immediate future.

Having made this mistake, it is as much a moral obligation on NATO to end the war quickly to stop the suffering, as it is to obey a flawed UNSC Resolution. This should involve immediate and direct attacks on the regime in order to effect regime change, and steps to make the no-fly-zone truly effective; that is, air attack controllers on the ground with the rebel forces.

An invasion, that is not.

Photo, of a Tomahawk missile fired during Operation Odyssey Dawn, courtesy of the US Navy.

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