As Libyan Stalemate Looms
NATO Never Figured On This
by Dan Ehrlich

Multiple Friendly Fire Tragedies Make Matters Worse
This hasn’t been a red-letter week for NATO forces, arguably killing more Libyan rebels than Gaddafi’s troops. This and the seesaw battles on the ground has top military experts saying that the rebels haven’t got what it takes to win.

Of course, having their guardian angels in the air bombing them to bits hasn’t helped their chances. The most optimistic prediction now is a long running stalemate and a possible division of Libya.

But, aside from the carnage that has developed through the West’s open encouragement to rebels, not forgetting friendly fire deaths, this has become a disgraceful debacle for the US and EU nations involved. This, along with Afghanistan, opens NATO up to criticism about its effectiveness.

You have to go back to the 1918-19 allied expeditionary force to northern Russia and the West’s attempt at curbing the new Communist government to find a similar parallel of bad planning and ineptitude. During that sad embarrassment for the major powers of the day, the Allies were forced to beat a retreat by the disorganized, but motivated, new Red Army. At the end, as now, they were left asking: What was this all for?

In the case of Libya, what it has been for is oil, even though this desert kingdom only supplies 2 percent of the world’s liquid gold. But, Libya is a member of OPEC and OPEC operates a lot like the global market. When one player gets a cold, others may catch it, too. The main oil using nations will do almost anything to maintain order in the OPEC members, to make sure the spice flows freely.

The main problem hasn’t been with friendly fire deaths, but the usual bad intelligence, or liberal fantasizing from the outset about the winds of change about to blow away Muhammar Gaddafi. The NATO nations, lead this time by France (even though the US did most of the bombing) had to prevent a massacre of a biblical proportions taking place at the hands of a “madman.”

They didn’t count on the amount of support, popular and military, the madman retained. Before long it became evident this was in fact a civil war...with most of the firepower remaining with Gaddafi. It also became evident the rebels were largely untrained civilians with no plan of attack or proper command structure.

For Gaddafi’s part, realizing his forces didn’t have a chance against NATO aircraft, he has successfully concealed them in civilian population centers, while somehow carrying on a seesaw war with the rebel forces. One might think this would favor the rebels…having his main armor hidden from view and action.  The problem here is that the rebel forces lack military expertise and leadership to press home an advantage when one is opened up for them by NATO action.

In the end, a no win situation appears possible for everyone involved. But there’s the prospect of total embarrassment and even disgrace for NATO, which encouraged the rebel military action and eventually supported it militarily, but evidently not strongly enough.

There’s almost deja vue quality to this with Operation Desert Storm in 1990 when Bush Sr. encouraged the Kurds to revolt against Saddam Hussein, yet refused to militarily to support the rebellion, which resulted in a massacre of the Kurds and a disgrace for America.

NATO now must consider two distinct possibilities, either commit ground forces, ala Afghanistan, and actively fight to overthrow Gaddafi or accept that for the time being he will remain in power, at least in half the country, and the red faced western politicians will have to continue somehow working with him.

From a world perspective, the ground forces option might seem desirable. The “in for a penny, in for a pound” adage as a way of not only ridding the world of this sociopath leader, but also saving NATO’s reputation. There’s little chance this would be anything like Afghanistan or even Iraq, where multiple hate filled Muslim populations complicated the operations.

Yet, once again, the lesson hasn't been learned that limited military action often results in disaster. It's almost as when you buy a cheap item, thinking to save money and wind up spending more in the long run mending and replacing what the cheap item caused.

On the other hand, America has its hands full with Afghanistan and Iraq. Let the French, who were so eager to save Libya from Gaddafi, have the honor. Besides, France has the history and reputation of the Foreign Legion on its side. This would be a great opportunity to revise all those romantic tales of grit, self-sacrifice and glory for the Tricolor.

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