Sunday, March 20, 2011

Two Days into the Mess and Already Mission Creep in Libya? Would George W. Bush have been this Brazen?

Tomahawk Cruise Missile Launch from U.S.S Gonzalez

The March 17  U.N. Resolution that is the justification for U.S. military action against Libya authorizes the U.S. and other U.N. Member States to do the following:
 Protection of civilians
“4.   Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory, and requests the Member States concerned to inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take pursuant to the authorization conferred by this paragraph which shall be immediately reported to the Security Council;
No-fly zone
“6.   Decides to establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians;
            . . .
“8.   Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, to take all necessary measures to enforce compliance with the ban on flights imposed by paragraph 6 above, as necessary, and requests the States concerned in cooperation with the League of Arab States to coordinate closely with the Secretary General on the measures they are taking to implement this ban, including by establishing an appropriate mechanism for implementing the provisions of paragraphs 6 and 7 above,
That is the legal basis for our taking military action against the Qaddafi regime. Acting under that resolution,  the U.S. Sixth Fleet launched some 110 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles at various military targets in Libya yesterday. 

Nevertheless, secretary of State Hillary Clinton played down the U.S. role.  "We did not lead this," she said yesterday.  "We did not engage in unilateral actions in any way, but we strongly support the international community taking action against governments and leaders who behave as Gaddafi is unfortunately doing so now." Clinton hinted later as to the actual U.S. role.  "America has unique capabilities and we will bring them to bear.  We have unique capabilities to bring to the international efforts." Later, she said, "We think that the most important step for us to take now is to assist in every way that is unique to American capabilities with the enforcement of [UN Security Council Resolution] 1973."

When briefing on Saturday's attacks yesterday at the Pentagon, Vice Admiral Bill Gortney was pressed as to who was taking the lead in the first day of operations.

"In these early days, the operation will be under the operational command of General Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command," Gortney told reporters at the Pentagon.  "And the commander of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, which is the name of this operation, is Admiral Sam Locklear, who is embarked on board USS Mount Whitney in the Mediterranean."

Gortney said there would be an "eventual transition of leadership to a coalition commander in the coming days," but added: "That said, the U.S. military has and will continue to use our unique capabilities to create the conditions from which we and our partners can best enforce the full measure of the U.N. mandate."

Later, Gortney was asked,  "To be clear, this is a U.S.-led operation, but in the hours leading up today there’s communications or talk to try to talk that down?"

Gortney:  "We are on the leading edge of coalition operations where the United States under General Ham in Africa Command is in charge.  He’s in command of this at this point.  And in the coming days we intend to transition it to a coalition command."

Early in the briefing, Gortney said the attack involved "110 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from both U.S. and British ships and submarines."  Later, a reporter asked: "Can you specify how many British ships were involved compared to the U.S. ships?"
"We had one British submarine," Gortney said.
"And the rest were all U.S.?"
"Yes, ma'am."

So for Day 1 of our new war, it was essentially a U.S. Operation.  I had held out hope earlier that the French and Brits would take the lead on this effort, as they had been talking of doing.  The Germans wanted none of it, and the Italians are allowing their bases to be used for coalition aircraft, but as the former colonial power in Libya they have to take a back seat role.  Canada also supplied aircraft for the operation apparently.

The New York Times today reported that French and British aircraft joined U.S. warplanes in striking targets in Libya today, and that the United States is already looking to go beyond deterring Qaddafi's forces from attacking civilians, the express goal of the U.N. Resolution.  Here are the money quotes:
"The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, also focused on those goals, talking about how allied forces had grounded Colonel Qaddafi’s aircraft and worked to protect civilians — both objectives stated by the United Nations Security Council in approving the military mission. “We hit a lot of targets, focused on his command and control, focused on his air defense, and actually attacked some of his forces on the ground in the vicinity of Benghazi,” Admiral Mullen told Fox News."
"But the campaign may be balancing multiple goals. President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and British and French leaders have also talked of a broader policy objective — that Colonel Qaddafi must leave power. In his comments on Sunday, Admiral Mullen suggested that objective lay outside the bounds of the military campaign, saying on NBC that Colonel Qaddafi’s remaining in power after the United States military accomplished its mission was “potentially one outcome.”
"Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, on a flight to Russia, said he was concerned about that possible result. Though he praised the mission’s “successful start,” he cautioned that a partitioned Libya, with rebels holding the east and Colonel Qaddafi the West, could bring trouble. “I think all countries probably would like to see Libya remain a unified state,” Mr. Gates said. “Having states in the region begin to break up because of internal differences is a formula for real instability in the future.”
So, it sounds like we have in just two days transitioned from a goal of protecting civilians, similar to the effort we undertook in Kosovo, to thinking about helping to build a new Libya.  It seems like we are just making up our policies on these nations in transition in North Africa and the Middle East totally on the fly.

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