Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Will To Win Wimps Out

No sooner had the kick-butt of Libya started, than the UN coalition's wheels started to wobble.
The Arab League's support of the no-fly zone was hailed as an extraordinary development. But as soon as reports emerged of civilian casualties, the Arabs were demanding to know what had happened to the no-fly resolution: "This differs from the no-fly zone objective – what we want is civilian protection, not more civilian deaths." They seemed not to notice the killing of Libyans by
"Oh shit, here comes another
cruise missile...!"
Qaddafi's troops.
So (paraphrasing the old adage) the West threw a war, but no-one from the Arab world came.
Though there was meant to be direct Arab military participation (from Morocco, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates), their aircraft are conspicuous by their absence. The counties who've come to play include Italy, Belgium, Canada, UK, Denmark, France and Spain.
Yet if those Arab states analysed the 1992 Bosnian no-fly zone, they'd see that overwhelming air power alone cannot win a war. And once the skies have been controlled, that airpower needs to be directed against ground elements. You can't let a tank continue to fire on civilians simply because it doesn't have wings!
What's clear is that, with pressure now off their backs, the rebels are advancing again. Unclear is the response from Qaddafi, with no-one knowing where he actually is. It's also unclear where this kick-butt will end. All the players are now singing from the same songsheet - that Qaddafi must go - but the UN resolution doesn't actually extend that far, and a no-fly zone by itself will not topple him.
Some are saying Qaddafi won't fall unless foreign troops are on the ground but USA, already fighting on two major fronts, dabbling in several others and dealing with an increasingly war-weary populous, has no stomach for invasion.
However if the "war" is not regarded as "won" until Qaddafi has been captured/killed (but Western troops are NOT to be committed)... then the only other option is to supply the rebels with weapons to do the job themselves (and I'd not be surprised if that's already happened). At least that way, the Libyan people will feel more in control of their own destiny.
Of course, the question remains: why is there no Arab participation? Here's an interesting hypothesis - perhaps they had no intention of playing anyway. Maybe for their own reasons they wanted Qaddafi's demise, promised to be involved, then backed off, and let the already-committed Western forces do their dirty work for them.
Just a thought...

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