Mission Creep Into Libya


I just don't get Tony Cordesman at times. Here he is mocking the short-term vision of the US, British, and French politicians relating to the fighting in Libya in an article he titles, "Will the Farce Stay With US?"

American connoisseurs of schadenfreude can take some comfort in the parallels between this course of action and the equally naïve and dangerous approach used by the Bush Administration in Iraq. After all, watching a French President,  a British Prime Minister, and a Democratic President of the US repeat the Bush Administration’s failure to plan for the decisive and lasting use of force, fail to plan for the civil side of military operations and to support stability operations, and focus on short term goals without a realistic plan for a successful strategic and post-conflict  outcome is not without irony and touches of black humor. And as for historians, the whole thing is yet another demonstration that they have the world’s easiest profession; all they have to do is wait for history to repeat itself.

And then he gets into his great recommendation - escalate the bombing campaign to a deliberate attrition operation in support of the Rebel Alliance. This is a better solution?

France, Britain, the US and other participating members of the Coalition need to shift to the kind of bombing campaign that targets and hunts down Qaddafi’s military and security forces in their bases and as they move – as long before they engage rebel forces as possible. Qaddafi, his extended family, and his key supporters need to be targeted for their attacks on Libyan civilians, even if they are collocated in civilian areas. They need to be confronted with the choice between exile or death, and bombing needs to be intense enough so it is clear to them that they must make a choice as soon as possible.

This kind of operation cannot be “surgical’ – if “surgical” now means minimizing bloodshed regardless of whether the patient dies. Hard, and sometimes brutal, choices need to be made between limited civilian casualties and collateral damage during the decisive use of force and an open-ended war of attrition that will produce far higher cumulative civilian casualties and collateral damage. The Coalition will also need to avoid the trap of blundering into some kind of ceasefire, where Qaddafi’s forces and unity will give him the advantage. This will be a “peace” that simply becomes a war of attrition and terror campaign by other means.

Really? You want to double down on the number of Muslims who are going to hate the West? Do you really think this is going to result in a stable state, short of a decade of occupying and rebuilding that country? Yeah, really a great idea, Tony - if you want to dramatically increase the amount of post-conflict pain after we "win" the war. Here's a crazy idea. Walk away. Make the rebels negotiate with Qadaffi or let them run to Egypt for shelter. The Cordesman solution is no solution to follow.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration continues its mission creep deeper into Libya with "nonlethal aid"... Yes, the Rebel Alliance will at least look better when they are fighting while wearing US military uniforms. They won't win any battles, though.


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