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The Lessons of Libya

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Just short of a month ago, we posted "The Real Lessons of Kosovo" on this site, now we are in the process of learning, or not learning, the same lessons in Libya.

According to The New York Times, last week, Britain's top military commander, Gen. Sir David Richards, said that Muammar Gaddafi "could remain 'clinging to power' unless NATO broadened its bombing targets to include the country's infrastructure."

In 1999, in order to end the war in Kosovo, NATO aircrafts destroyed much of Belgrade's infrastructure. The Serbs in Belgrade suffered greatly when their utilities were destroyed, their bridges were blown up, and their television stations and government headquarters were bombed. The Serbs withdrew from Kosovo (whether for good or bad, I cannot say) and the war ended.

Now, The New York Times writes that "there has been growing concern in NATO capitals that the [Libya] strategy needs a game-changing adjustment that might bring a rebel victory closer." The UN Security Council resolution authorizes NATO forces (again quoting The New York Times) "to use 'all necessary means' to protect the country's civilian population from attack from pro-Qaddafi forces..."

Gen. Richards doesn't think that will do it. In Naples, he told the London Sunday Telegraph that

"we need to increase the pressure further through more intense military action. We now need to tighten the vise to demonstrate to Qaddafi that the game is up...If we do not up the ante now there is a risk that the conflict could result in Qaddafi clinging to power." (That reads as if Richards believes that NATO's mission now is the removal of Qaddafi.)

According to The Times, Richards

"suggested NATO should be freed from restraints that have precluded attacking infrastructure targets; other NATO officials have suggested in recent weeks that these could include elements of the electrical power grid in government held areas and field dumps...he [Richards] defended attacks seemingly aimed at Col. Qaddafi himself, saying that 'if he [Qaddafi] was in a command control center that was hit by NATO, and he was killed, that would be within the [UN] rules."

Gen. Richards seems to have been recommending a "Kosovo" solution to the Libyan conflict. But then on Tuesday, at a NATO joint civilian and military press conference, both the civilian and military spokesmen backed away from questions that even hinted at a "Kosovo-like" solution. Between the two spokespersons, there were at least a dozen denials that NATO forces were overstepping the UN mandate efforts. They stated emphatically that NATO was not attempting to overthrow Gaddafi. It was merely trying to protect Libya's civilian population.

We seem to be witnessing a major split between military leaders (Gen. Richards) and NATO political leaders. If you read The Times, "There has been growing concern in NATO capitals that the strategy needs a game-changing adjustment that might bring a rebel victory closer." You hear none of this from NATO's political leaders. Through their spokesmen, they expressly disavow the need for a change in strategy. Bringing "a rebel victory closer" is not, according to them, a part of NATO's mission.

Everybody seems confused -- Kosovo's war ended when we took decisive action in Belgrade, destroying a large portion of its infrastructure. NATO is not yet ready to take that step. Gen. Richards wants "to tighten the vise to demonstrate to Qaddafi that the game is up." NATO seems to have no intention of tightening the vise, so the game goes on.

Around the Web

NATO - NATO and Libya

BBC News - Libya: Nato assumes control of military operation

War crimes prosecutor seeks arrest of Gadhafi - Yahoo! News

Libya: Nato remains split as Barack Obama announces US would pull ...

Libya: NATO Takes Charge, but Will Europe Take the Lead? - TIME

Libya: NATO's Libya mission 'going in circles' - Los Angeles Times