Libya: Another coalition, another war
Every patriotic Americans wants whatever our forces are doing with regard to Libya to turn out well and with minimum loss of life on both sides. As of this writing, our war aims appear to be the toppling Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from power and to hope the Libyan rebels can form a government more acceptable to the Libyan people and to Libya’s neighbors.
So far, Mr. Obama’s strategy, which is supposed to lead to the achievement of the war aims, is to create a no-fly zone over Libya. The tactics being used to create the no-fly zone include, so far, over $500 million dollars of U.S. cruise missiles, air-defense suppression strikes by U.S. B-2 “stealth” bombers plus French and British tactical aircraft.
All of this war activity is being conducted under the aegis of a U.N. Security Council-backed coalition very much like the U.N.-backed coalition assembled under former President George W. Bush prior to the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of the dictator, Saddam Hussein. Initially, the current coalition included the Arab League, formed from all the Arab states from Northwest Africa to the Persian Gulf. But, as of March 20th, the Arab League is having second thoughts, claiming the establishment of the no-fly zone the Arab League requested on March 12th involves more destruction than the Arab League had in mind.
The Arab League must have “missed the memo” because on March 2, 2011, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on world-wide TV explaining in great detail the mechanics of no-fly-zone establishment, to include the inevitable collateral damage around Libya’s anti-aircraft artillery sites, anti-aircraft missile sites, and the command and control headquarters for Libya’s air defense system. Of course, if Gadhafi packs innocent civilian men, women and children around his air-defense establishment, the amount of collateral damage is greatly increased. Watch for the film from Libyan and Al-Jazeera TV.
But what if the tactics currently in use to establish a no-fly zone do not work? Surely, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, however reluctantly, must have a plan to invade Libya with ground forces. How many ground forces, and for how long?
Our modern, volunteer forces have a record of stunning achievement when it comes to toppling dictators such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq or toppling regimes like that of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But when blitzkrieg victories on the battlefields turn into occupations of liberated territories, the going gets sticky. Especially, if enemy sanctuaries are allowed to continue to exist in countries contiguous to or nearby the liberated nations.
In Vietnam, enemy sanctuaries continued to exist in North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, although, for 60 days in 1970, we invaded Cambodia. Our forces in Iraq continue to battle insurgents inserted from next-door Iran. Our problems in Afghanistan are made worse because neighboring Iran and Pakistan harbor elements of al-Qaeda and/or the Taliban.
Because the vital interests of the United States do not appear to be at stake with regard to whatever happens in Libya, one concludes our war aims are based solely on humanitarian grounds. But, if Mr. Obama responds militarily whenever some dictator is beating up on his own people, then the Obama Administration may have bitten off more than it can chew.
Including Libya’s Gadhafi, Amnesty International’s list of the world’s most brutal dictators leads with: Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, Burma’s Than Shwe, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Red China’s Hu Jintao, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, Turkmenistan’s Saparmurat Niyazov, Iran’s Seyed Ali Khamane’l; and Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Oblang Nguema. That’s just the top ten.
But since King Abdullah provides us with oil and President Hu owns most of our national debt, those two dictators probably figure they are safe from the righteous wrath of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
©2011. William Hamilton.