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Guest editorial from the Phantom Editorialist - on Libya.

The post is under my name, but I am not the author, except for the intro and coda.  For the nonce, the author prefers to remain anonymous.  I've already said what I think - I don't like optional wars, and I really don't like optional wars that you seemingly stumble into, flailing for an anchor.  Wars never end up as they are envisioned, and when you start killing people without a clear purpose and end-state in mind - and the willingness and wherewithal to carry it out... then you just shouldn't start killing people.  Even bad people.  Because once the killing starts, things change, and do so in unpredictable fashion.  But no one in the corridors of power seems to bleeping understand that simple fundamental fact. I've got some more thoughts at the end of the post.

How did we get here?,

The claim is that it was a humanitarian intervention, to avert a massacre. I don’t buy that so much. A look at the reportage from the same time, late February, shows violent incidents taking place ala Tiananmen Square, with a repressive and fearful government putting down protests there, although not a massacre, as I would define it. Though one has to admit the bar for a massacre has at times been set very low.

That also doesn’t take into account that this sort of thing has happened in Libya before, and has almost been the norm in Libya for 30+ years.

We’re not talking Rwanda or Kosovo here, no singling-out of an ethnic group and seeking to force them out of an area or eliminate them entirely. Though tribalism seems to penetrate into the issue to some degree in the case of Libya, it likely does not meet the legal criteria for use of the term genocide.

Most of the later reporting from Libya, that which occurred after the protests became an outright civil war, strikes one as the wages of war. The Geneva Conventions do not rule on who wins a given fight, but only whether it was done according to the law. A decent amount, though by no means all, of the civilian casualties seem to this author of the collateral damage type. If your enemy holes up in a city, you’re strategically required --by plan or by reality of the situation, since control of an area requires putting your riflemen on the ground in question and kicking the other guys off -- to capture said city and displace your enemy, there are going to be civilian casualties. That’s true whether it’s the US in Iraq or Af’stan, or if it’s that rat fracker Kaddafi on his home turf. Gravy for the goose still works when it’s to be applied to the flesh of the gander. So this, predominately, is a war, and not every civilian death amounts to murder and the aggregate is not a massacre, regardless of who is doing it. But then there are incidents such as this one ( )where death by a thousand papercuts to the perpetrator would never balance the scales of justice --sniping the crowd of protestors for those who typically do not follow links.

By deduction then, it would seem massacre prevention wasn’t the real reason we’re there.

So I shook my connections tree to come up with a good and definitive answer. A definitive one is not forthcoming, so whether the reasons I’ll present are good is for to the reader to decide.

The most wonkish response centered on National Interest:
1) Global position of Libya and the disposition of its government toward the Muslim Brotherhood/Islamicist governments in North Africa, and putting a firebreak in place between Algeria and Egypt in particular.
2) The oil wealth in Libya is not as extensive as, say, that in Saudi, but it’s still a lot of petro-dollars sitting in the ground; better to have it under an admin partial to the US and the EU than to the growing Turkey-Iran alliance, or the MB influenced governments of Saharan Africa.

It makes sense to attempt to craft events such that the regime in Libya is not sending cash to terrorist organizations or to other disruptive non-state actors. This was put forward by a career intel wonk, who shall remain nameless. It is this author’s hope that his reasoning, largely based on National Interest, is present in places like Foggy Bottom, Langley, and the other “professional” aspects of government, i.e., those that don’t rearrange deckchairs and personnel wholesale with the electoral ebbs and flows.

Another argument was that the Clintons, and Obama seems to emulate the former President, have a sense of guilt over Rwanda and the “tardy response” to Milosovic’s transgressions. So they had a jones for getting involved. Policy by celebrity, as it were -- how popular something is governing whether it gets done or not. For a while, on the heels of the Egyptians deposing Mubarak, revolutions in the ME were all the rage.

The most common argument was a simple one: “Kaddafi’s a bum, we have raison d’être regardless of whether it’s true or not” and then there’s “We can avenge Lockerbie, so let’s rock.” It was politically popular enough, though one struggles to figure out why Libya, and not, say, Bahrain or Syria or a laundry list of other countries chaired by jack@55es and murderers (not enough celebrities or newsies on the ground in those distant locales maybe?), and so it was done. Post-partum cleaning of the geo-political gene pool is what it had been likened to. Many cited things like Kaddafi’s mistreatment of his own population for close to two generations, but most oft-cited was Lockerbie, Line of Death, and the German disco. Kaddafi being a hated, quarrelsome, long-standing pain in the world’s collective butt meant he had to go, and we had a popular-with-the-masses reason to do it. So, Johnny, grab your F-15/F-18 because you’re bombing Libya tonight.

One rather cynical response was that diplomacy by force was popular with the Bush Administration, has remained so in the Obama one, and we’re facing the continuation of US as Globo-Cop.

It does not matter how we got here.

It no longer matters how we got here. We intervened, and that changed everything.

By attacking armored columns with the “No Fly Zone” aircraft, we ensured the survival of the poorly-equipped-and-untrained rebellion in Libya against the much-better-armed-and-trained loyalist forces. That’s the world we live in, and those are the conditions we must deal with.

Whether or not the US, and to a lesser extent NATO, could have gotten the same in terms of strategic interests by doing nothing, by buying off or threatening Kaddafi, whether this was of a high enough order of national interest to do when balanced against the risks/means available/stratcomm incoherence is no longer the question. It has become “What do we do with the new conditions?”

There are several options open to the US and NATO; all have inherent costs and risks.

Remember, how we got to this moment no longer matters, as we’re now in this discrete moment in time, and not in the past. Debate over how we got here is fun, but it’s historical debate and is no longer valid in terms of affecting what we do now. I mean, really, whether or not this is legally allowed under the War Powers Act doesn’t really change the strategic situation any. Maybe Barry can be impeached over it – maybe – and there’s lots of debate over doing that, but doing it doesn’t change the actual problem one bit.

So what do we do now that we’re here?

1) We can leave and let things go as they may, likely with Kaddafi winning as he seemed likely to before NATO airstrikes began. This carries the potential blowback that credibility with opposition groups drops off the table like an MLB caliber curveball. Good luck trying to get the youth of Iran to trust us and push back against ole crazy Ahmadinejahd, or similar situations in which we’d like to foment regime change internally, rather than Iraq-style.
2) We can get heavily involved, in any number of guises. But Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard looks pretty bare these days. Providing logistical -- shipping arms and equipment -- and training support to the rebels while airpower holds Kaddafi loyalists at bay in the west of Libya, then attaching small teams of SOF and FAC to rebel formations ala Af’stan seem plausible to this author, while inserting an MEU seems less so -- doable, but not as plausible, given other things currently occupying our martial attention.

What should be guiding us, in this author’s opinion is simple: national interests, what is likely to attain NI, the means available, the costs, and the anecdote of Col. Summer’s conversation with a Vietnamese counterpart (“You never defeated us on the battlefield.” “That’s true. It’s also irrelevant.”). Simply because we can blow up everything Kaddafi has does not mean we’ve decided the political question. War may be politics by other means, but simply blowing up his armored columns does not impose our political will on him, or anyone else.

We have a tiger by the ears here.

If we simply leave, there’s a possibility Kaddafi could learn a hard lesson, resume his CBRN projects -- though there are MASSIVE impediments to doing so, such as his dearth of resources and talent -- and return to actively
terrorism. ).

According to some Beltway Bandits I know, who shall remain nameless even though they blog, Kaddafi could simply be a poodle after surviving the coup attempt. The anti-proliferation initiatives would work against his getting back into the CBRN game; with renewed interest in impeding terrorism post 9/11, there are serious costs and risks to him, and, as the War Nerd might say, Kaddafi, like Terrell Owens, loves him some him, and won’t risk drawing heat that’ll push him out of the spotlight or get him killed
-- basically, El Dorado
worked because Kaddafi’s vanity and his sense of mortality brought him to the realization that angering the US is not in his best interests.

What we chose ought to take into account the risks as well as the benefits of a proposed action, and ought to be red teamed the hell out of. But the truth is we have a tiger by the ears here, and we need to be very careful in deciding.

My closing thoughts - I'll reiterate one of my philosophical problems with US military power (stated from the perspective of a practitioner of same) - the danger of making it too easy to kill people, means you are too likely to kill people. If it isn't worth dying for, it isn't worth killing for. The point is not that I object to making war less lethal to the people we put in harm's way, or even more lethal to the target of our warmaking, it's that making it safer for us to kill has made us more likely to kill. Our doctrinal and policy analysis and frankly, fundamental ethics on the issue aren't anywhere near as advanced and refined as our technical ability.

If the object of your anger is, in the words of well-known peacenik Otto von Bismarck: "Not worth the bones of one Pomeranian Grenadier" then it's probably not worth generating corpses in general.

But a central aspect of the history of warfare is - it's a lot easier to start the killing than it is to turn it off.

Damn.  I'm turning into a hippie.


Well at least you have the beard. 

Seriously, we have no business being in Libya.  First of all, Libya is a construct less than 100 years old.  It is really three countries kluged into one.hrought the typical European high-handedness with borders.  If Europe was worried about oil flow, then they should resolve this alone.  We have carried their water too long.  Of course it was DDE who emasculated Europe in 1956 in the Suez Canal nationalization kerfuffle which has made them gun shy. 

Bottom line we need to be out of this mess.

Unsurprisingly, the Libyan coverage contains scant mention of the economic and political interests of La Belle France and the formerly Great Britain.  La Belle has been trying to establish a "Mediterranean Union" involving European, North African, and Middle Eastern countries in some kind of socio-political organization, not that the European Union they've been working on for the last forty some odd years is doing so well.  And the British, well, what can one say that hasn't already been said by the Lockerbie bomber for oil sellout.  I think that President Obama got and his Nation Security Council Human Rights Director (and who knew we needed one of those) Samantha Powers got snookered with another bit of human rights blather.

Muslims killing muslims, what's not to like.  They been doing it for 1400 years, why interrupt them now.

I note with amusement his position that: "What should be guiding us, in this author’s opinion is simple: national interests ..." when it is very clear that the ONE thing not even under consideration by this country's "leadership" is the National Interest.
Anonymous, Sir, well done. The problem here,In is that we have started a precedent and according to the Constitution of the United States, it is wrong. There is just no easy way to put it. As  a man grows old, hopefully he will see his limitations, but right now, I'm not  so sure.

 Did you ever notice, the people who keep pushing the envelope on the endurance of this relatively small voluntary military,  These “Congress Critters” and POTUS, who want all of these wars, have no skin in the game. I wonder, would that change some of their views?  Do we track money spent on weapons and weapons systems? Our Leaders should not get a dime in directly or indirectly from weapons or weapons systems sales, is not appropriate, it is inappropriate. If we don't do this, it could be construed as “Undo Influence”. For the record, yes, this should be retroactive to all living leaders.

I figure, Anonymous, that this just might assist them in meeting your goals. I do not believe that we should be playing everybody else's war. When you stop and think about it, are we going to be ready to fight our own  wars?  

Mark Matis, not knowing your age I must give you a look fairly wide window clear answer. Question, When was the last time you fall real leadership or at least, one who thought were real leadership?
Pain or Pleasure:  These are really the 2 most basic impulses that cause people to do something.

At some point, we have to convince the so-called "moderate" Muslims - themselves - to eliminate and control the radical jihadists within Islam.

If the current approach we're now on - namely, investing American lives and treasure in efforts to rebuild and transform Muslim countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, or trying to support "moderate" but autocratic leaders like Mubarak - fails, what is left?  We will have exhausted the "nice guy", "carrot-and-stick" approach.

After 9/11, I think this was probably a better approach than simply nuking Muslims to smithereens, as many Americans would probably have supported on 9/12.  It was necessary to attempt to transform Islam and move it into the 21st Century.  It's really the only hope we have to co-exist with Islam, because there is no possibility of co-existence with radical Islamic jihadists.

But if all our current efforts are doing is "creating even more terrorists" as some claim, then clearly the solution rests entirely within Islam itself.  They must police their own, and force the change that is necessary.

If the "nice guy", "carrot-and-stick" approach doesn't work, then we will have to fall back on the other impulse that compels people to do something they ordinarily would not:  PAIN, or at least the credible threat thereof.

We will have to convince moderate Muslims that they have much more to fear from US than they have to fear from the Islamist jihadists among them, whose barbarity and cruelty all of us have witnessed.
John of Argghhh!, Galzar would be proud of you for what you wrote there, as would be the God of our cosmos. (For those who haven't read Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, by Piper, you should go out right now and obtain a copy.)

"Damn, I'm turning into a hippy."

  No yer not, you are what you always were, an Officer and a Gentleman. Oh, and a Scholar, too!
P.s. Killin' is serious business.  Please don't do it without a very good reason. 
So, we're there protecting oil for France & Britain? WTF, O? As was said above, Muslims killing Muslims, is that our problem?
Not from where I sit.
We have NO "National Interest" in this game.
Um, Chris,  I concur. I don't think we have a very good reason for killin', there.
I think the disconnect is deep here-the casual way we entered involvement, and the disorganized nature of how the involvement is continuing point to a serious moral defect in the leadership-namely, that because we CAN do a thing, they apparently believe that is equal to whether or not we SHOULD do a thing-in particular, we have the weapons with stand-off capability and pinpoint accuracy, therefore, apparently, it's alright to use them merely because we possess the capability to do so.

The equivalent on a person-to-person nature would be presuming you have the right to blow your neighbour's brains out merely because he has a bow-and-arrow, and you've got a sniper rifle.

Somehow, I think the big-heads in Foggy Bottom or D.C. would probably NOT be as inclined to this, if the targets and the unrest were in, say, a well-armed republic of the former soviet union, or mainland china-you know, people they think of as being...'civilized'?

But, it's okay, at least apparently, to pot-shot Wogs and justify it afterward.


I would say that Ronnie RayGun was the only true leader I have seen in my lifetime.  And I do recognize that, being human, he had his flaws.  Let me add Stormin' Norman to that list as well.  That pretty well covers it at the national level.  I have had management that also seemed to be leaders, but their scope of influence was extremely limited because they did not fit the pattern that THEIR leadership looked for.

And for an antithesis to those, I give you Colin Powell.
 I'm no Wog lover, but I have no desire to kill them just because they kill other Wogs. I'm all for staying away from Wogs that don't threaten our national interest, and would like to shick a bunch of the Wogs that have entered our country illegally, or if they don't want to be a part of the melting pot.

I liked Reagan. he was the closest thing to a leader as I've seen since the days of Ike. However, Ronnie was deeply flawed, he angered me when he tucked tail in Beirut after the Marines were killed because he allowed a horrid ROE scheme. When he pulled them out with no retaliation against Syria, he really placed us between a rock and a hard place.
As I look at this discussion, I need to respond to Mark Matis.  You  mention Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and  Gen.Colin Powell. Both men showed great leadership in their time, but in different ways. General Schwarzkopf during Persian Gulf 1 and all of the issues in Saudi Arabia. We may never know all of the consequences. I will probably never see it, but I wonder how history is going to judge us. There are factors that ride just beneath the surface and someday history will bring them out. When this happens many of us will look at things very differently

Quartermaster, Ronald Reagan was a good man, he was a good actor. The thing to remember is this being a good actor does not mean you'll be a good President. I wonder what Eisenhower would have done if he were President during the bombing of the Beirut Marine Corps. Barracks. I believe Eisenhower would have taken a long time to respond to the Syrians for that event. I do not believe it would have been his first option.

I do not think you would see him as he himself as a “War Time President”. There are many ways to accomplish this goal.
While I agree the need to be in/helping in Libya is debatable, I don’t agree with the whole argument that there are other places where we should have helped out, therefore we should not help here. You can not solve the worlds ills at once, you must pick and choose which hills you intend to fight for. Libya came to the forefront because Quaddifi (however you spell his name) has pissed off just about everyone and the chance to put the boots to him was just to good to pass up. Plus I think the politicians felt he only had a couple of weeks left and they would look like the good guys to almost everyone. Had they acted in the moment, they might have been right, however they waited for the UN, which to be fair, produced the required approvals in record time (for them) but the moment had passed and now we are caught in quicksand that will pull us more into the morass.
Colin, you make some good points in the discussion. Could you help a “Dumb Old Grumpy Vet” understand the whole picture? You say, “now we are caught in quicksand that will pull us more into the morass.” My question is this, when the we first get “caught in quicksand”? If you have any other supporting information it would be helpful.

THANK YOU, have a good holiday,