Monday, July 11, 2011

The Looking Glass War

I’ve commented before on the fact that the NATO coalition that's supposed to be prosecuting the war in Libya is coming undone because its members can’t agree on what they’re trying to accomplish and whether they’re acting under the color of international law. The Italians, for example, are already bailing out on the ground that they signed up for a short-term humanitarian mission to protect civilians, not to take sides in an extended Libyan civil war. They’re no longer willing to pretend that cashiering Gaddafi is encompassed by the UN Resolution authorizing the use of military force by member states to protect Libyan civilians.

Until now, however, the French and British have been forging ahead with the campaign to unseat Gaddafi (with our material support) while they strain to uphold two ever-more unlikely fictions: first that they’re driving Gaddafi from power in behalf of NATO; and second, that NATO, in its turn, is executing a resolution of the UN Security Council which says a lot about protecting Libyan civilians, but not a thing about regime change. And if that wasn’t enough fiction for one splendid little war, the Obama administration is pretending that its material support for the “NATO” operation doesn’t amount to its participation in “hostilities” of the kind that require congressional approval.

Now the French, having discovered that regime change is a lot harder than they thought it would be, are apparently getting cold feet as well. At least that’s the unmistakable impression left by this Uri Friedman post:
“France, you may recall, urged a reluctant U.S. to intervene military in Libya and was the first country to officially recognize the Libyan rebels and provide the opposition with direct military aid--measures the U.S. has cautiously sidestepped. So it was surprising on Sunday when French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said France was prepared to halt the bombing if the Libyan rebels and Muammar Qaddafi's loyalists agreed to lay down arms and negotiate, because there was ‘no solution with force.’ When asked if talks could take place without Qaddafi relinquishing power, as the opposition demands, Longuet added, ‘He will be in another room in his palace with another title.’

“Completing the about face, the U.S. State Department responded by reaffirming its commitment to NATO's military mission in Libya and declaring that while the political transition in Libya is ultimately in the hands of the Libyan people, ‘we stand firm in our belief that Qaddafi cannot remain in power.’"
That adds another layer of pretense to the Libyan operation.  Let me see if I've got it all straight.  Now we're pretending that the French are still pretending to be trying to drive Gaddafi from power; France, in its turn, is still pretending to be acting in behalf of NATO; NATO in its turn, is still pretending to be acting collectively at the behest of the UN; and the UN, in its turn, is still pretending only to have authorized the protection of Libyan civilians.  Gaddafi and the Libyan rebels, as far as I know, are still being perfectly forthright.

What could go wrong?


Danny said...

One well-placed terrorist attack in France by Gaddafi's secret police is all it would take to make Sarkozy fold his tent once and for all. He isn't going to run for reelection as a war-time president.

Anonymous said...

What a mess we've gotten ourselves into. This is what happens when you don't have an idealogy and a foreign policy to match it.