Monday, March 21, 2011
International alliance divided over Libya command
During the Vietnam War, the United States pursued a unilateral strategy without seeking UN approval or Congressional support. Often the reason given was the Korean War and Vietnam War were not wars but conflicts. In response, the War Powers Resolution was passed over the veto of President Nixon on November 7, 1973, to provide procedures for Congress and the President to participate in decisions to send U.S. Armed Forces into hostilities. Of course, since its passing the War Powers Act has been ignored.
In Desert Storm, President Bush did seek a coalition of nations approved under UN resolution to liberate Kuwait. Once Kuwait was liberated, President Bush did not pursue Saddam Hussein as he felt this would have been beyond the scope of the UN resolution.
Twenty years later, President Obama is facing the same challenges.
"And like a parade of Pentagon officials the past few days, Obama insisted that the United States' lead military role will be turned over—"in days, not weeks"—to an international command of which the United States will be just one part.
The only problem: None of the countries in the international coalition can yet agree on to whom or how the United States should hand off responsibilities.
The sense of urgency among White House officials to resolve the command dispute is profound: with each hour the U.S. remains in charge of yet another Middle East military intervention, Congress steps up criticism that Obama went to war in Libya without first getting its blessing, nor defining precisely what the end-game will be. (On Monday, Obama sent Congress official notification that he had ordered the U.S. military two days earlier to commence operations "to prevent humanitarian catastrophe" in Libya and support the international coalition implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1973.)"
It does the United States no good for the rest of the world to see Congress and the President divided on this issue. The article points out the seeming contradiction of supporting the rebels but not ousting Gaddafi. Operation Odyssey Dawn is being run by US African Command (AFRICOM) which was created only four years ago (for just such a contingency?). Britain, France, Belgium and Canada are all providing forces but who will be in command in the next phase in undecided. As all of these countries are NATO members, should the structure be NATO or non-NATO? A legitimate question is why has NATO started to support operations that have nothing to do with protecting Europe fromt he Soviet Union (which was the sole reason for its creation). It can create the perception amongst other nations that NATO has imperialistic goals.
"Days, not weeks." Perhaps sensing Americans unease with entering yet another conflict, the Obama Administration is promising the involvement will only take days. However, the best laid plans rarely survive the first encounter with reality. Gaddafi is well armed and has not remained in power for nearly 40 years by being careless. I believe we will be in left in charge of Odyssey Dawn for many weeks to come.