Saturday, March 19, 2011

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- Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

"War is diplomacy by other means." - Clauzwitz

The first strikes of the British-French-US coalition have at last taken place against the Gaddafi regime. Given the intensity of the attacks and the hardware involved, it is predictable the situation be proclaimed "War #3".

To proclaim this a 'war' is premature, however. What we are engaged in over Libya is to War what driving your daily highway commute is to NASCAR. I will explain this analogy:

In his announcement approving US missile strikes on Libya, President Obama warned Muammar Gaddafi that "actions have consequences", while at the same time stressing that no US ground troops would deploy to the region. This self-imposed constraint tells the world that the United States has limited objectives in the current military actions. More significantly, this encourages Gaddafi to hang in there; we're not coming after him.

This is not War; there is no causal series of events, no clear objective. This is your typical United Nations episode choreographed by committee with the intent on freezing events at a single historic period of time - now - like every other United Nations success story around the world; Korea, Cyprus, Iraq . . . no, wait; the UN bolted out of Iraq and then and only then did any progress occur toward defeating Evil and liberating the population.

Again, Clauswitz: "War . . . is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will."

Unless our will is to allow Gaddafi to remain in power and to continue his reign of terror, there is no evidence yet that we have committed ourselves to war in North Africa. Instead, what is taking place are war-like actions; the international military version of a SWAT team. In other words, a police action.

Critics of my analysis will say that Libya is sparsely populated, there are few targets - we will bomb the tyrant to smithereens within a few weeks. In professional military circles, this is referred to as "underestimating your enemy".

"You are a professional, but the world is full of dangerous amateurs." - Murphy's Law of Combat

Consider Vietnam. We dropped more ordinance on that tiny country than we did over the entire European Theater of Operations during World War II, so much so that we ran out of targets to bomb. And yet the Communist leadership knew that unless we were willing to invade and occupy the North, all they had to do was hang in there and sooner or later we'd tire of the effort, take our bat and ball and go home.

But Vietnam had a worldwide Communist Bloc backing it up, with direct lines of supply from Red China straight down to the southern battlefields; Libya does not have this. Au contraire - Libya is backed by the entire continent of Africa - an amazing continent of unfounded natural resources and almost limitless manpower - and Gaddafi has spent forty years investing in those assets.

It will be interesting to see how and when mission creep evolves toward assisting the rebel forces toward a genuine war of movement, and what other players appear on the battlefield. Reminder - the Muslim Brotherhood holds tenuous sway over the street mobs of Cairo, a day's drive across the desert to the East. A principle of war is Momentum. Will a power vacuum develop, such as took place in Iraq in the spring of '03?

Whether or not this is how it plays out in Libya, today Gaddafi listens to Obama's words and what he hears is that he's been given breathing room. Consider Gaddafi's actions of the past week - the man has nothing to lose. He realizes there is no villa waiting for him in the south of France; this is it - all or nothing. If Gaddafi has to pack his bags and go, his next stop is a cell in the Hague. To Hell with that - Gaddafi is a Satanic bazillionaire with an evil army and air force at his disposal. From his point of view, all Gaddafi had to do was give the UN a little lip service and keep on slaying his opponents; the rat infestation in his barn had gotten so out of hand the only way to control it was with a flamethrower.




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