Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Exactly what are our goals?

Coalition forces (read NATO) have established a no-fly zone to protect the rebels. However, simply keeping Gaddafi's aircraft grounded has produced the necessary results so no AC-130 gunships and A-10s are being introduced to the campaign. These aircraft give more flexibility in engaging ground forces (and subsequently the opportunity to strike the very civilians Odyssey Dawn seeks to protect). Airpower, as I wrote about previously, cannot occupy territory. At some point, ground troops are going to be deployed if nothing more than as "advisors" to the rebels. President Obama's message on Odyssey Dawn doesn't seem to be convincing anyone and has left his military leaders pondering the disconnects:

Adm. James Stavridis, head of US European Command, said Tuesday the coalition's military goals in Libya are clear, but he acknowledged that they aren't necessarily configured to bring about the stated political goal of the Obama Administration and many world leaders in seeing Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi step down from power. "I don't think the two are directly linked, but they may connect over time," Stavridis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. The coalition's military operations are concentrated on protecting Libyan civilians from violent attack by Qaddafi forces. Even with the present disconnect, Stavridis said the military activities may indeed end up laying the groundwork for Qaddafi's ouster. "[B]y our participation in protecting the people of Libya, we create a safe and secure environment in which the people of Libya can make a determination, and . . . have the ability to undertake the kind of effort that would, in effect, create regime change, as we've seen in other nations in the Middle East." That is particularly the case if the coalition applies additional elements of statecraft such as a "financial squeeze" and travel restrictions, he said. Source: AFA Daily Digest

In Vietnam, the goal in Washington was to stop the spread of Communism. The goal of senior military leaders was victory through attrition. The goal of the troops on the ground was to survive their tour and go home. Libya is beginning to look like President Obama's version of the Vietnam War.

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