NATO and Libya


daalder i.jpgUS Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder just gave an on-the-record State Department conference call readout of NATO meetings on Libya and what capacity NATO might have on hand for various contingencies there.
I tried but failed to get a question in, and the subject I would have raised was not covered in the call.
My question would have been what were Ambassador Daalder’s and other NATO members’ assessments of the ‘neighborhood view’ on the imposition of a no fly zone in Libya. In other words, what do the African Union and Arab League think? And does NATO care?
Daalder was quite forthcoming in laying out military capacity, airlift capacity, and surveillance capacity that was on the roster of those things being assessed and considered by NATO. He said that the assessment would likely be done by the end of this week.
Without saying that a UN Security Council Resolution was required for NATO to act, Daalder said that every NATO member strongly preferred that there be such a Resolution in place before NATO took action.
We didn’t have time to get into China and its recalcitrance in supporting a resolution authorizing force against another regime that is internally at war with itself. But China is clearly an impediment — and so are the deeply embedded allergies and anger at past Western intervention in this region.
— Steve Clemons


14 comments on “NATO and Libya

  1. Kotzabasis says:

    Robert Haddick, the managing editor of Small Wars Journal, argues in his piece in the Foreign Policy magazine, March 4, 2011, of the uselessness of a no-fly zone in the Balkans, as an example that could also apply in Libya. But the ineffectiveness of a no-fly zone in Bosnia cannot be used as an argument in the totally different circumstances in Libya. Milocevic was fighting a nationalist war for a greater Serbia and his relatively powerful military forces were involved ardently in this ‘great’ goal of Serbia. By contrast, Gaddafi is fighting for his own survival with a weakened army, due to defections from its ranks, and compelled to import mercenaries to kill his own people, which in turn increases and exacerbates the divide between the regime and the Libyan people. This is the fundamental difference between Milocevic and Gaddafi. The former was fighting with a united army an ethnic war, whereas the latter is fighting a civil war with a disunited army.
    I think the following quote from Charles Maurice Talleyrand depicts, with his normal profound perception in matters of diplomacy and war, perfectly well the principle of non-intervention:”The principle of non-intervention, very convenient in itself, and very appropriate to a given circumstance, becomes very little better than an absurdity, when regarded as an absolute and when it is desired to apply it under conditions widely different. This principle is a matter of judgment , when to set it aside, and when to apply it.”


  2. Paul Norheim says:

    Apparently, Egypt is already supporting the rebel forces in
    eastern Libya:
    “BEIRUT, Lebanon, March 9 (UPI) — Egypt, still grappling with a
    revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February, is
    reported to be quietly aiding rebel forces seeking to oust
    Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
    This is seen as part of a drive by the transitional regime in
    Cairo to restore Egypt’s leadership of the Arab world.
    While the United States and the international community debate
    whether to intervene in the civil war raging in Libya to support
    the ragtag rebel forces holding the east of the country, Egypt
    apparently has sent around 100 Special Forces troops to help
    the insurgents.
    The U.S. global security consultancy Stratfor says these troops
    “have played a key role in quietly providing weaponry and
    training to Libyan opposition forces while trying to organize a
    political command in the east.”
    Cairo has made no official comment on the report. But the
    transitional regime is dominated by the Egyptian military.
    It is deeply concerned about a flood of refugees pouring across
    the desert border from Libya as well as a resurgence of Islamist
    militancy in eastern Libya that could reignite its own Muslim
    More here:


  3. Cee says:

    In addition, Anne-Marie Slaughter, until last month the influential director of the State Department’s Policy Planning office, cited the U.S.-NATO Kosovo campaign as a possible precedent. “The international community cannot stand by and watch the massacre of Libyan protesters,” she wrote on Twitter. “In Rwanda we watched. In Kosovo we acted.”
    Such comments evoked strong reactions from some military experts, however.
    “I’m horrified to read liberal interventionists continue to suggest the ease with which humanitarian crises and regional conflicts can be solved by the application of military power,” wrote Andrew Exum, a counter-insurgency specialist at the Center for a New American Security, whose Abu Muqawama blog is widely read here. “To speak so glibly of such things reflects a very immature understanding of the limits of force and the difficulties and complexities of contemporary military operations.”
    Other commentators noted that a renewed coalition of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists would be much harder to put together now than during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.


  4. Cee says:

    Speaking of Bosnia
    The Reagan administration’s war on the poor was underway here at home at that time and it was decided to direct this campaign against human welfare also toward communist countries. In 1984 it specifically targeted the Yugoslav economy in a secret memo, NSDD 133, which advocated expanded efforts to promote a “quiet revolution to overthrow Communist governments and parties” while reintegrating the countries of Eastern Europe into a market-oriented economy.”5 Thus began Reagan’s secret plan for interventions to overthrow Communist states. This illustrates that the demise of communism was probably due to some extent to Western connivance and militarism.
    In 1989 Ante Markovic, prime minister of Yugoslavia, in order to pay off the loans, launched a program of privatizing or shutting down state industry, cutting back on social programs and subsidies and freezing wages. These are the same types of actions that have been taken by the IMF and the World Bank against other nations in the last two or three decades as a part of the “developed” nations international war on the poor. The standard of living declined 18.1 percent between January and October 1990. This downturn raised unemployment to 20 percent and thus increased tensions between the republics. Markovic, visiting Washington, told President George H. Bush that rising tensions among nationalities would be a consequence of his austerity/privatization plan.6
    Then the U.S. came down like a sledgehammer again on Yugoslavia when on November 5, 1990 Congress passed the 1991 Foreign Operations Appropriations Law 101-513. A section of this law, without previous warning, cut off all aid, credits and loans from the U.S. to Yugoslavia within 6 months. Also, the law demanded separate elections in each of the republics that made up Yugoslavia, requiring State Department approval of election procedures and results before aid to the separate republics would be resumed. In February 1991 the Council of Europe also demanded that Yugoslavia hold multi-party elections or face an economic blockade.7
    Three weeks after the U.S. Congress passed this dictatorial law a CIA report leaked to the media predicted that Yugoslavia would disintegrate into civil war, possibly within the next year and thus essentially agreeing with the warning made earlier by Markovic.8 By 1991, the new government had acquired a debt of $31 billion. Unemployment was over a million and inflation was 200 percent.9


  5. Paul Norheim says:

    During the first week of the revolt in Libya, the media (Al Jazeera included) spread the message that
    this was about a mad dog and his delusional son willing to massacre a defenseless and democracy-
    hungry people with all means available. Everyone who has made an effort to dig a bit deeper in the last
    week realizes that, yes, Gaddafi is brutal, but the overall picture is a bit more complex.
    Here is an excerpt from Simon Jenkins’ both well written and well thought out article in the Guardian,
    where he especially attacks the approach of his own government:
    “‘No-fly zone’ is a euphemism for war. We’d be mad to try it
    Cameron’s urge to dust himself in military glory may be strong, but he should not interfere in the
    Libyan rebels’ cause
    Simon Jenkins
    The Guardian, Wednesday 9 March 2011
    Happy days are back for the sofa strategists and beltway bombardiers. After the miseries of Iraq and
    Afghanistan, a Libyan no-fly zone is just the tonic they need. If you zero in from carrier A, you can
    take out the Tripoli air defences while carrier B zaps the mercenary bases and carrier C zooms with
    special forces to secure the oilfields. You might tell the Americans to go easy on Leptis Magna after
    what they did to Babylon. Otherwise, let rip. You can sense the potency surging through Downing
    Street’s veins. This is how wars begin, and beginning wars is politically sexy.
    Last week saw a brief but fading moment of sanity from the White House and Pentagon. Both
    counselled caution against trigger-happy comments from Capitol Hill and Downing Street. US defence
    secretary Robert Gates pointed out that no-fly-zone is euphemism for war. It requires the elimination
    of air defences by bombing, and total cover thereafter. Since the explicit purpose is to help rebels
    bring regime change to Libya, the inducement to deploy ever more force if that fails will be irresistible.
    Hence the caution.
    We now learn that a no-fly zone is back on the menu, with added adrenaline. All the familiar phrases
    are heard. Nothing is “off the table”, and “all options are under consideration”. Should the UN fail to
    offer a licence, there would be a “coalition of the willing”. The only requisite justification for attack is a
    tear-stained girl pleading over the corpse of her brother on TV (…).”
    More here:


  6. Brigid says:

    Looks like the Bosnia hand-wringing all over again. While the massacres go on, the administration will tell us… “all options are on the table” and “we will hold Gaddafi accountable.”


  7. JohnH says:

    Pepe Escobar takes down the US handling of the ultimate political storm in the ME: “The storm deploys devastating gusts of hypocritical winds.”
    Why haven’t I heard sweet Hillary delivering an urgent plea in Saudi Arabia calling for democracy…in Libya?
    Why haven’t I heard sweet Hillary delivering a self righteous speech in Baghdad calling for Iran to “respect the rights of protesters”…while Maliki can do what he wants with Iraqi protesters?
    In case foggy bottom hasn’t noticed, nobody believes the crap spooned out by US public “diplomacy.” And delusional state department apologists wonder why “they don’t like us?”


  8. jonst says:

    My question would have–and obviously this is a rhetorical, and leading question, but it is the one I would have asked–is: What personal stake, Mr Daalder, are you willing to pony up in this fight? You sign up? Your kids? Nephew? Brother? Wife?
    What is YOUR personal stake in this GWOT?


  9. Kotzabasis says:

    Given the destabilization of his regime, not only because of the revolt of the Libyan people but also because of the widespread defection of politicians, diplomats, and military personnel to the side of the rebels, this chain of events has increased the magnitude of the vulnerability of his own supporters to the call of major nations and of the UN for the ousting of Gadhafi, and hence could ease, and lead to, the abandonment of the autocrat. To ratchet up the momentum of this vulnerability, military strategists should draw up a plan of vaguely defined unexpected threats that would be inflicted on Gadhafi


  10. DonS says:

    The abuse of Bradley Manning, to get a coerced confession implicating Julian Assange.
    Be proud, America. This is what it looks like to live in a democracy in decline. We’re looking at you Herr President.


  11. non-hater says:

    It’s just idiotic for NATO to be seen as leading the push for a no-fly zone. It’s almost as idiotic for NATO to actually get involved, but if that is going to happen, there’s really no sense in yammering on about it.
    Couldn’t they at least get somebody from Turkey to be the spokesperson for this?


  12. Paul Norheim says:

    “But China is clearly an impediment”.
    I guess Russia is as well:
    “Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has reiterated his
    opposition to military intervention in Libya, the RIA Novosti news
    agency reports. Russia has the power to veto any resolution on the
    matter at the UN Security Council.”
    (Reported two hours ago at BBC’s Live Blog)


  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “US Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder just gave an on-the-record State Department conference call readout….”
    Whats this mean??? Sorry to be so ignorant, but I have no idea what EXACTLY this “conference call readout” is. Conference call between whom? Who is included? Why are they on the list? How is it you are privy to all this?
    How about a little lesson here, Steve? Its jibberish to us working stiffs out here in the real world where “information” is whatever line of shit they feel like feeding us at the moment. Try to bear in mind, the information highway you are on doesn’t have the roadblocks and toll booths that ours does.


  14. Don Bacon says:

    It’s important that the US have a consistent security doctrine. Surely there ought to be some doctrinal basis for US foreign policy, rather than committing US military power on a strictly case-by-case basis.
    Helping Libyan rebels would gibe with the US National Security Strategy:
    . . .through our capacity to speak to their hopes . . .our troops and diplomats . . .. . .to shape a world in which more individuals and nations could determine their own destiny, and live with the peace and dignity that they deserve. . .And in a young century whose trajectory is uncertain, America is ready to lead once more. — Barack Obama
    But the National Defense Strategy is more restrictive:
    The Strategic Environment
    For the foreseeable future, this environment will be defined by a global struggle against a violent extremist ideology that seeks to overturn the international state system.
    And I can find nothing in it that covers Libya:
    –Defend the Homeland
    –Win the Long War
    –Promote Security (because conflicts might spread)
    –Deter Conflict
    –Win our Nation’s Wars
    Gadhafi was until very recently as close an ally to the US as the potentates of Middle East US allies are — Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen, etc. If the US doctrine is to help Libya rebels, shouldn’t the same doctrine apply elsewhere? One could make the case that a policy of helping Libya rebels with military aid ought to be extended to these other countries. While the rebellions in these countries are not as kinetic as in Libya, the potential is there.
    Would that be promoting US security or undermining it? To ask the question is to answer it.
    It’s easy to say in a fancy speech that the US ought “to shape a world in which more individuals and nations could determine their own destiny” but difficult to implement it through military means. That’s the box the US finds itself in because of its years of supporting anti-democratic rulers, thinking that this would promote US security.
    So what’s the doctrine to be?


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