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Nato conflicted over desire to intervene in Libya and underlying pacifism

Mark Urban | 18:06 UK time, Friday, 25 March 2011

So the Libyan no-fly zone has been placed under the political and military umbrella of Nato. There is still some debate about whether the alliance should also endorse that part of the mission that has been dropping bombs on, or launching missiles at, Libyan ground targets.

But UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague have been predicting that this dispute too will be solved in the coming days.

For the moment then it remains a "two tier" operation, as I characterised it on Sunday, in which Nato agrees to do the easier bit - the flying over North Africa in order to knock down any of Colonel Muammar Gadaffi's aircraft - while leaving the trickier business of bombing forces in built up areas to the "coalition" of the US, UK, and France.

This difference of views, even if it persists beyond the few days predicted by Mr Cameron, ought not to wreck the campaign, because that smaller group of US-led nations can keep dropping bombs or launching missiles.

Col Gadaffi is hurting badly, and whether his survives for days or longer, he cannot win in the sense of re-establishing his control over the whole of Libya by force.

So why are we even writing or talking about this political disagreement then? Perhaps its greatest significance is as an example of the political, and perhaps even moral, weakness of many members of the Western alliance.

After all, the position of the countries that do not want launch bombs or missiles against ground targets is that they would like somebody else to do it for them. Several Nato countries, including two key members (Germany and Turkey), are simply convulsed with doubt about killing people on the ground.

These countries have approved the idea of a no fly zone, and accept that UN Security Council Resolution 1973 gives it a strong legal basis. They do not mind killing Libyan aircrew in the sky, by shooting down their aircraft, and they are quite content with the idea that the suppression of air defences (ie strikes against surface to air missile sites, command bunkers, or airfields) needed to allow the no fly zone to be established be done by someone else.

It would be one thing to oppose the whole idea of this operation - to object to all of the military action carried out, regardless of what military/political label is put on the command arrangements.

But while Germany, Turkey, and some other nations voiced doubts about the idea (and Germany abstained in the UN vote over resolution 1973), they do not feel strong enough to argue against the whole enterprise or indeed to use their veto power within Nato.

So the last minute argument to persuade these countries to accept that the whole operation needs to be placed under a Nato mandate continues. Meanwhile, many senior people in the alliance suspect that this political division will only become a serious issue, if somebody's aeroplane hits the wrong target and many civilians die.

At this point, having the whole operation under a Nato banner could become a liability, because one of the doubters might lead a movement for the whole thing to stop before its objectives have been met.

This is essentially what happened during the 1999 Kosovo air campaign when a number of countries tried (but failed) to start a movement for a "bombing pause" when the air offensive dragged on, claiming many civilian lives.

The idea that some innocent people may die in order to save the many is explicitly embraced by the Libyan rebel leadership and ought not to be a moral revelation to anyone who has thought about political philosophy.

It is after all the basis upon which developed societies accept all kinds of risks, from the one that speeding emergency services vehicles might run down pedestrians to the understanding that certain types of surgery end up killing rather than curing the patient.

So the present situation arises from political confusion - an understanding that the intervention is justified and therefore should not be blocked sits in conflict with an underlying sense of pacifism (in Germany), or Islamic sense of community (Turkey).

It all simply adds to the pressure facing those carrying out the air operations not to make mistakes. Decision makers in the UK, France, and America know also that it impels them to get this over with quickly - and it is at the intersection of military and political risk, that rushing for a result produces a terrible error, that the greatest hazard to this venture may lay.


  • Comment number 1.

    If they are struggling to get a consensus in Libya what happens if Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Bahrain, Iran, and Saudi all go off as well.

    Or have the Hawks worked out that if we can sort out Libya as the closest major oil supply to Europe perhaps we can, strategically, leave the rest to thier own devices.

    Would make a good plot for a grand spy novel would it not.

    The secret service infiltrates / whips up libyan opposition to facilitate a revolution, banking on Gadaffis reaction to justify a heavy european intervention and future influence in libya.

    Would Libya plus what is left in the north sea / other peripherals and with russia as a back stop be enough to secure Europes supply of the black stuff in the medium term while we ween ourselves off it ... or do we need to support pretty horrible regimes in the middle east as well to repress their populations, intervening would not be an option most places except ..maybe Libya.

    Im off to write a novel.

    Hollywood here I come.

  • Comment number 2.

    UN - NATO - EU

    They are all comprised of corrupt regimes like - er - UK! Has the Libya adventure been stamped 'AAA' by some virtual office, staffed by an unimpeachable (term used advisedly) 'hand'?

    It really IS Alice in Wonderland 'reality' isn't it!


  • Comment number 3.

    It's not just the disagreement with NATO, the arabs haven't been rushing to support the air offensive.
    Considering that they voted to protect Libyan civilians, one would expect there whole-hearted help.
    We can't carry on this air offensive without more help from the rest of Nato and the Arab League.
    What happens if Israel launches a major offensive against Gaza, it could tear the coalition apart.
    Indeed we might sucked into a full scale war in the middle east

  • Comment number 4.


    Israel has violated so many UN Resolutions, they should be in the Guinness Book – or perhaps a Nobel Prize for Dissent. They are not a valid point of reference for this world.

    The poor Israeli Jews are saddled with the nonsense of a 'God-given land'. They are a magnificent example of the ‘Ape Confused by Language’. Any loving god would suggest they drop all the rigidity, including fuss over Jerusalem, and move towards a more philosophical (mature) take on life - one of minimised strife.

    Unfortunately they have lost The Ark, so it cannot tell them (in no uncertain terms) to stop being so childish. But Tony has it in hand; that really should fix it! He has an amazing record.

  • Comment number 5.


    The really scary bit to the plot to the novel is where a war in the middle east is exactly what the shadow government (the hands up the backsides of the puppets - subconscious monsters from the id if you will) wants.

    You see, we can either:

    a) Pay back the huge debts via austerity which keeps the banks solvent and everyone in debt slavery- not very popular and starting to be voted against which is not going down well with banks and gov are doing all kinds of stuff like printing money to try to pretend the issue is not there.

    b) Default on the debts and destroy the banking system and stop the countries who borrowed from borrowing more via an appauling credit rating ... sounds sensible except the shadow government does not make any money out of that one... they lose everything and become nationalised to a man.


    c) Have a really nasty war which will re-set the debt clock (you dont have to repay debts to nations you are at war with apparently - I find it scary that there is even an accepted banking protocol for that scenario) and in the process re-shape the political landscape.

    If I were to look at this from a psychologically needy meglomaniac sociopath's perspective I would go for option c every time.

    So war it is then....

  • Comment number 6.


    The media keep us all primed regarding the usual threats: war, climate, money, food, but they never look at the intrinsic knife-edge threat of modern living, in terms of city infrastructure (exacerbated by high-rise).

    When a critical mass of men (and - increasingly male-behaving women) are out of work, angry and drunk, a few stupid words from some union boss (no names) might start a general strike.

    If we have passed the critical degree of complexity, a catastrophic collapse then follows, which is extremely nasty, and leaves a similar trail of destruction, disease, death and trauma to war.

    When the Soviet Union disintegrated there were decaying nuke subs to contend with. Global social collapse will see abandoned nuke power stations. . .

    And Nick is worried about too much 'niceness' with Dave!

  • Comment number 7.

    lets just declare war on everybody then they wont talk to us and wont want anything off us so we can maybe....make some progress.....

  • Comment number 8.


    Since the Bush-Blair 'New Reality' was installed, Terror is everywhere (but not necessarily TerrorISM) and the FINAL BATTLE (never-ending) is specifically against TERROR. So I think Lord Goldsmith would agree with me: we can attack anyone, at any time, legally.

    What is more, we don't have to explain why, if it puts our side in harms way - or is commercially sensitive.

    Finally, under the Clegg Protocol, we only have to say: "THAT WAS THEN" three times, to be divorced from the whole barmy charade.

    We civilised the known world - don'tcha know!

  • Comment number 9.

    I can spell this out in one word: LIES!
    Nato should stay out, if they want a reasonable reputation to remain.
    Real Reason # 1: Regime change.
    Nicolas Sarkozy recognized the rebels in Benghazi as "the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people".
    You mean Libya had no Government?
    This "recognition" was an extraordinary violation of international law. How dare France sweep out the real Government like dust. The Government then became:
    - an obscure group of rebels
    - in a traditionally rebellious part of Libya.
    This was tantamount to the French declaring war on Libya.
    To overthrow Qaddafi and put "these unidentified & mysterious" rebels into power is (in my opinion) an act of external agression - war.
    BIG LIE: "to protect civilians".
    The UN Resolution authorizing military action "to protect civilians" was drawn up by France (whose objective was regime change) and of course, The Coalition of the Willling wanted to overthrow Gaddafi.
    If UN Security Council wanted to "protect citizens", it should've sent a neutral observer mission to find out what was really happening in Libya.
    By the way, where is the proof that Gaddafi had been slaughtering civilians?
    A UN fact-finding mission could have set the record straight; the Security Council could have acted on the basis of FACTIAL information vs. claims of the so-called rebels.
    The Security Council has now become an instrument of Western powers.
    Once the United States and its leading NATO allies were authorized to "protect civilians" - air strikes; bombing and cruise missiles. Air strikes, bombing and cruise missiles are not designed to "protect civilians" but rather to DESTROY MILITARY TARGETS, which inevitably results in collateral damage, including civilians. Aside from such "collateral damage", who gives the Coalition of the Willing the right to kill Libyan military personnel manning airports and other Libyan defense facilities? This "no-fly" thing is illegal, criminal, a potentailly a war cime - but not Gaddafi's war crime.
    It seems to me that with the bog in Afghanistan, some alliance leaders wanted a quick and easy war - sort of to reassure themselves - that such was possible. I suppose this whole "farce" is supposed to revive enthusiasm for military operations, maybe even increase the popularity of the politicians responsible.
    Libya's "easy" - huge country, mostly desert, with only about six million inhabitants. The country’s defense installations are all located along the Mediterranean coast, within easy reach of NATO country fighter jets & US cruise missiles. Libyan armed forces are small, weak and untested. Pushover!
    Arabs asked for this war?
    On March 12, the Arab League meeting in Cairo announced that it backed a no-fly zone in Libya. This allowed the French to strut: "We are responding to the demands of the Arab world!".
    It's not clear how many in the Arab League supported the decision, but Syria and Algeria voiced STRONG objections, and only half of the Arab League members bothered to show up for the meeting.
    Qaddafi has made Arabian enemies.
    Gaddafi told them off - their betrayal of Palestine, their hypocrisy. British MP George Galloway recounted how (in contrast to the Egyptian government’s obstruction) he had his aid caravan to Palestine doubled in Libya. Qaddafi long ago turned his back on the Arab world, considering its leaders pathetically engratiating to the west.
    Also, little attention has been paid to the AFRICAN UNION'S UNANIMOUS OPPOSITION to war against Gaddafi; Gaddafi has invested huge amounts of oil revenues in sub-Saharan Africa, building infrastructure and investing in development.
    The Coalition of the Willing seems to want another Arab League sheikh that will lay down and let them walk all over him.
    On March 4, the French Bernard-Henri Lévy had a private meeting in Benghazi with Moustapha Abdeljalil, a former justice minister, now leader of the rebel "National Transition Council". That very evening, BHL called Sarkozy and got his agreement to receive the NTC leaders. The meeting took place on March 10 in the Elysée Palace. Thereafter, NTC became the sole legitimate representative of Libya.
    How could the Un have possibly acted on this load of s....!

  • Comment number 10.

    A handful of Western allies - the US, some European nations, the UAE and Qatar - have become lost in The Desert Sands of The Lotus Eaters.
    These few "Coalition of the Willing" are determined to fight for the sweet crude - Libyan oil. Meanwhile, their own domestic troubles hopefully will get lost amidst the war in the desert.
    President Barack Obama limited first engagement was embarrassing. The rebel jet that went down in flames was a victim of friendly fire FROM THE FRENCH AIR FORCE.
    This little accident was soon followed up by the launch of 124 Tomahawk cruise missiles from
    - the USS Stout and Barry as well as from
    - the submarines Florida and Providence.
    The gung-ho-war politicians justified this foreign aggression as an effort to save civilian lives. The 124-rocket barrage killed many more people, including civilians, than would have died had the local fighters had been left to their own resources. Now this irony! Funny, IF not so sad!
    Showing a proper & humane attitude, several countries have expressed absolutely no desire to have anything to do with the present North African farce; this includes Angela Merkel of Germany, Manmohan Singh of India, and even former Brazilian leader Lula da Silva.
    God knows that has inspured the Americans, Britons and the French. Nevertheless, there they are in North AfricA, "comrades in arms", ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?
    Working with the rebel Islamic Fighting Groups, in fact the most RADICAL ELEMENT IN THE AL QAUEDA NETWORK. You can't get much more dumb than this, can you?
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted as much in a congressional hearing, saying that the Libyan opposition is probably more anti-American than Muammar Gaddhafi.
    Protection the civilians, including Al Qaeda militants holed up in Benghazi is the most twisted rationale for any military intervention in the history of modern civilization.
    If you take this same logic and apply it to Afghanistan and Iraq, Marines should be saving Taliban settlements from the Afghan Army and/or providing security for suicide-bombers against the Iraqi police. Twisted or what?
    Since the start of the Afghan war, Al Qaeda has shifted its strategy away from South Asia towards building a new emirate across Northern Africa. The trio of leaders who refused to pay "protection money" to these resurgents (WHILE OTHERS ACROSS THE REGION DID) were:
    - Muammar Gaddhafi,
    - Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and
    - Ben Ali of Tunisia.
    Since the start of this year, under Obama's "Islamic policy", Washington has engaged with sympathizers, those who support Islamist militancy to overthrow these very 3 guardians against Al Qaeda. Urging fanatics to attack their governments, arming fanatics to attack their own governments, seems utterly insane when these insurgents are the best of Al Qaeda.
    Okay, Gaddhafi is guilty of killing his own citizens, but so were
    - George Washington and
    - Abraham Lincoln.
    Civil wars are sometimes necessary, and foreign powers have no right, absolutely no moral right to take sides.
    The US participation in supporting the Libyan rebels is not only insane and ill-conceived; it is evil. The terrorists must be gleeful to have such assistance flowing to them from the United States, the UK, France - all through the auspices of the United Nations SC.
    We have failed, failed to stop and determine who these rebels are? Why is arming them? What do they want? Will they ultimately become the enemy?
    For Americans, Libya may be a trap, oil and oil ports, the bait. In recent times, the EASTERN Libyan city has been a prime Al Qaeda recruiting center for suicide bombers sent against American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    What a stupid thing the western Coalition of the Willing may have done!

  • Comment number 11.


    Those weird Westminster politicians rallied, almost to a man (and woe-man) in praising War Leader Dave. In the days when war made some sort of primitive sense, a king accompanied his troops into battle. King Dave, effete proxy for our monarch, exercises Glory without Vulnerability, like Tony and Maggie before him.

    There is a Zimbardo Factor here. Needy 'leaders' do violence BECAUSE THEY CAN, rather than because 'there is no other way'. That is the way of The Ape Confused by Language.

  • Comment number 12.

    It has been obvious for some time that the Gaddafi regime are desperate to get some civilian casualties, so as to relieve the airborne attacks,which is stripping the regime of its military power.

    It would be very foolish, shortsighted and demoralising for the rebels if NATO pulled back now.

    The Gaddafi regime appears to be fast approaching the tipping point, so NATO should continue with its policy of interdiction.

    There can only be two outcomes for the Gadaffi family and its henchmen, The Hague or summary justice via the Libyan people.

  • Comment number 13.

    Bluesberry @ 10 complains that the Arab/Western Coalition are possibly making a big mistake by backing rebels {in Libya and elsewhere} who almost certainly contain elements of Al Qaeda.

    However, taking a regional perspective, this is where the Iranian regime has proved to be so useful, in that it demonstrates, particularly to the younger peoples of these countries, just what a hard-line theocratic Government entails.

    This blogger does not see the Facebook generation being in any hurry to have that sort of regime replicated in their respective Arab countries.

    You could reasonably argue that that is the very last thing they would want and therefore the loose Arab/Western Coalition is probably correct in its 'nudge' type of approach.

    Democracy and freedom - they are basic human instincts and you can only keep the lid on them for so long.

  • Comment number 14.

    Well, thank God for "Nato conflicted over desaire to intervene in Libya...
    There are several accounts coming out of Lubya, especially from medical staff. These contradict was the western media is feeding the public.
    The Coalition of the Willing has been and continues to bomb civilian targets.
    This is apparently what is called "humaniatarun intervention".
    Residential buildings & hospital are being targeted by the coalition's "smart" bombs; these are not mis-strikes or accidents; they are precise and deadly, especially when most warheads are armed with depleted uranium.
    Blatant, external aggression of USA and NATO against a sovereign country - Libya. Since when is this not a declaration of war? The actions of US and NATO threaten the lives of the citizens of Libya. Personally, I am outraged by the barbaric bombing of Libya (which is being carried out by a coalition of US and NATO.
    The bombing of Tripoli and other cities in Libya is aimed
    - not only at the objects of air defense and Libya's Air Force and
    - not only against the Libyan army,
    - but also the object of military and civilian infrastructure.
    On March 24, 2011, NATO aircraft and the US bombed for 24 hours straight - at one suburb of Tripoli - Tajhura (where is located Libya's Nuclear Research Center).
    Air Defense and Air Force facilities in Tajhura were destroyed back in the first 2 days of strikes; but this time, the object of bombing were the barracks of the Libyan army, around which are densely populated residential areas, and next to it - the largest in Libya's Heart Centers.
    Bombs & rockets struck residential houses, fell near the hospital, shattered the glass of the Cardiac Center. In the building of the maternity ward for pregnant women with heart disease a wall collapsed, also part of the roof. This resulted in ten miscarriages whereby babies died, the women are in intensive care, doctors are fighting for their lives.
    Never has there beern this many wounded and killed, not even the total of all the riots in Libya. But this according to western powers is defined as: "protecting the civilian population"?
    The United States and its allies are thus carrying out genocide against the Libyan people - just as they did in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Crimes against humanity are being carried out.
    This arrogant aggression is to cause the Libyan people to surrender
    - their leader and
    - the legitimate government and
    - lay down their national oil wealth for the countries of the coalition.
    The the "international community" seems to have no will to stop this outrage.
    So I implore Russia and China.
    fter an abortive coup attempt in late February, the situation calmed down in Libya and the government had successfully restored order. To everyone in Libya, it was clear that without American intervention the country would soon return to normal life. Convinced that Russia,WHICH HAS UN VETO POWER, would not allow the aggression of the United States and its allies, I thought Libya was safe to move forward. I was wrong.
    Russia fell for the western propaganda; Russia failed to stop France and the US.
    How did Gaddafo treat his people?
    They are entitled to free treatment, and their hospitals provide the best in the world of medical equipment.
    Education in Libya is free, capable young people have the opportunity to study abroad at government expense.
    When marrying, young couples receive 60,000 Libyan dinars (about 50,000 U.S. dollars) of financial assistance.
    Non-interest state loans, and as practice show, no due date.
    Due to government subsidies the price of cars is much lower than in Europe, and they are affordable for every family.
    Gasoline and bread cost a penny, no taxes for those who are engaged in agriculture.
    Libyan suffering commenced with western agression, at the hands of western aggression. The Libyan people are quiet and peaceful, are not inclined to drink, and are very religious. In February, the peaceful life of the people was violated by gangs of criminals; the Western media for some reason called them "peaceful demonstrators", "rebels", "freedom fighters"...
    These rebels used weapons and attacked police stations, government agencies, military units - resulting in bloodshed. Those who direct them, pursue chaos and establish control over Libya's oil.
    The international community said that the Libyans are struggling against the regime. Give me a break! Go back and read the normal entitlements of the Libyan People before these rebels turned up.
    If the US, the EU and Nato have nothing better to do, let them
    - attend to the plight of Japan,
    - the Israeli bombing of Palestine, or
    - the plight of Arab immigrants in France,
    AND LEAVE THE LIBYANS ALONE to manage their own internal affairs.
    I hope that Russia will intervene; I hope that China will intervene.
    (The African Union Peace & Security Council delegates had been accepted by both the Libyan government and the rebel leaders to mediate a peaceful solution. The AU was refused entry into Libya by the UN Security Council. This act alone should have been challenged by Russia and China.
    Please, all foreign intruders, get out of Libya!

  • Comment number 15.

    Here are two articles showing different facets of the minefield we are now in.,1518,753602,00.html

    The title of the 'Spiegel' article "Dance Of The Snakes" seems particularly apt.

    The revolutionary activity in Africa and the Middle East could not have happened without Aljazeera - the seemingly pro reform TV station based in Qatar and financed by their absolute monarchy. The Saudis can't be pleased. and are already giving military support to the Khalifas of Bahrain - hereditary enemies of the al-Thani rulers of Qatar. It seems that the Saudis may also be poised to intervene in Yemen. So Qatar's government is bending over backwards to be cooperative with Nato - perhaps as insurance?

    I am making observations rather than moral judgements. The question keeps recurring to me. Suppose all these revolutions turn out, as in 1848, to be false dawns. Will the Saudis and others pressure Qatar to muddle Aljazeera?

    What do you think Mark - what's really going on?

  • Comment number 16.

    @15 Ooops - sorry - somehow muzzle came out as muddle!

    I've just watched the news, and I get the impression that politicians and some newsmen were expecting/hoping that this crisis would be over in days/weeks. But civil wars can and do go on for years. 'Coalition' forces could be in for a long and expensive campaign.

    Last week Mrs Clinton was saying: "The Libyan People want ..." She reminded me of Communist Party members in the '70s telling us "The Angolan people want..." In fact, as John Simpson pointed out this morning, Gaddafi clearly has residual support amongst some groups and in some areas.

    There will be no peace without new oppression unless these people can be persuaded that they have a future under any new regime.

  • Comment number 17.

    Nato should be conflicted about intervening in Libya; after all, this is an internal, Libyan matter. The Coalition of the Willing should never have been involved, and certainly they have exceeded R-1973.
    Apparently, world leaders met in London.
    Senior diplomats from 40 countries laid plans for their next agressions in Libya, where a rebel push that had been aided by international airstrikes is now struggling and under heavy attack.
    The United States, NATO and its allies are exploring ways to increase the pressure on Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. Coalition partners, including Arab states, are seeking to coordinate "military strategy" and "humanitarian efforts" (which to me, at this point, seem incompatible). Coalition Partners are also discussing how to help the rebels form a transitional government. Oh my gracious! Does the Coalition not realize that these rebels are Muslim extremists? Do they not know that these rebels from northeastern Libya are the hub of Muslim extremists?
    David Cameron: “The reason for being here is because the Libyan people cannot reach that future on their own. We are all here in one united purpose, that is to help the Libyan people in their hour of need.” Since when did the Libyan Citizens want or ask for an extremist Muslim government?
    The Libyan citizentry was doing just fine until the Coalition of the Willing decided to side with Muslim-extremist faction (aka rebels). Among the issues discussed was the provision of weapons and other practical aid to a diffuse the rebel army (though they are already being armed from Saudi Arabia via an Egyptian crossing)
    Outside Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte, Libyan government tanks and rockets turned back a rebel assault. Rockets and tank fire sent the rebels scurrying - like "rats and dogs". The rebels tried to bring up truck-mounted rocket launchers of their own and return fire, but could not manage.
    Strong loyalist attacks were also reported in Misurata; the rebels were said to be under heavy machine gun fire in Bin Jawwad. Rebel spokesmen told their western collaborators that rebel fighters were trying to maintain their control of the town, but details were not available.
    In London, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the conference that the international effort was “at a turning point,” with a united NATO now in charge of a military mission that included protection of Libyan civilians.
    Excuse me, but how do we know that the rebels Libyan Citizens?
    Clinton continued: “We’ve prevented a potential massacre, established a no-fly zone, stopped an advancing army, added more partners to this coalition and transferred command of the military effort to NATO." All of this seems to me far in excess of what UN R-1973 had in mind.
    The chief US diplomat said military and political pressure against Gaddafi would continue until the Libyan dictator complied with all UN resolutions. What UN Resolutions precisely?
    She also outlined a strategy for FORCING GADDAFI OUT OF POWER IN THE COMING WEEKS. What? I thought Gaddafi was not being targeted!
    Before speaking, Clinton had met with Libyan opposition leader Mahmoud Jibril, one of the council of 31, and a Muslim of extreme orthodoxy.
    Clinton said. “We cannot and must not impose our will on the people of Libya — but we can and must stand with them as they determine their own destiny.” (This must be some kind of sick political joke!)
    The coalition is already facing criticism from Russia and China about the aggressive and escalating nature of coalition attacks on Libyan ground troops. Intervening further in close combat would
    - increase the risk of civilian deaths and
    - make the mission far more dangerous for coalition troops.
    A senior US official attending the London talks said said no decision has been made yet on whether to RELEASE OF BILLIONS IN FROZEN ASSETS TO THE REBELS. This is entering the realm of just plain lunacy!
    “There is no evidence that Gaddafi is taking the kinds of steps the president has called for..." Who the Heck is the President? Has he become the entire United Nations SC and the originator of 1973?
    What are these steps:
    - cease-fire,
    - withdrawal of forces and
    - restoration of gas and electricity.
    In other words, surrender to the rebels.
    I can only hope that Russia and China become perturbed enough to intervene.

  • Comment number 18.

    @17 "I can only hope that Russia and China become perturbed enough to intervene."

    Apart from a bit of verbal sniping, Russia won't intervene because the bigger embarrassment for the West, the better for Russia. I would imagine that they abstained at the security council to give the "coalition" plenty of rope, but in the hope that it would hang itself. Also, it may well use similar pretexts to intervene in places like Georgia, Ukraine and Byelorus in the future. Byelorus in particular is one to watch if Lukashenko's regime starts to collapse.

    China's motives may have been similar but a bit more subtle. They have no particular interest in this bit of Europe's backyard - why not let Nato overextend itself?

  • Comment number 19.

    I wish Nato was conflicted, but I don't know if it is.
    Obama's advisors are probably telling him that the fastest way to become a one-term President is to lose a war. Bush refused to "lose" the Iraq for years; in fact, he wisely handed it over to Obama. Most Americans are demanding that we hurry up and "get out" of Afghanistan. In fact, Americans have turned against the war in Libya faster than any previous war.
    Militarism in this millenium is just plain barbaric. The Chinese know this; the Chinese have been asking for nehotiations with Gaddafi. Are the Chinese more civilized than the Americans? I honestly believe they are; I honestly believe this is why more and more countries would prefer to deal with China than the United States of America.
    Here are a few statements that Americans seem to live by:
    - Might makes right.
    - War makes peace.
    - Military aid is the American leading charitable organization.
    Oh, and here's the best one yet: A UN resolution means that the President no longer has to consult Congress about going to war.
    This attitude, can't you see, leads not just to mission creep, but morality creep - downwards. So, like Guantanamo and Iraq and investment scams and health insurance fraud, might makes right, and whoever can get away with it is admired.
    Did Congress approve funding in this Libyan war?
    Does the Pentagon have the budget for this war in Libya? Can the pentagon even tell you how much it spends on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan?
    Answer: No!
    Obama has secretly directed the CIA to arm the rebels, via Saudi Arabia and through Egypt. So now the UN gets the American Government around Congress, and the CIA gets the American military machine around the UN.
    This is Mr. Nobel Peace Prize at his best.
    Probably about 0.01% of Americans noticed that the War Powers Act doesn't let presidents have wars for 60 days, or that the same bans on war apply even when it's merely military activity in support of an overseas operation.
    Some of the American/imperial complex, like the Israeli complex, have come to believe that if you take out one person - one very important person - that will bring peace. So, let's go get Gaddafi!
    Did this minset work in Iraq with Saddam Hussein? Is Iraq better off?
    In fact this minset cannot work unless the victim (to be assassinate or killed) does not have a humunguois following, ready and willing to takle up his mantle.
    Gadaffi's strength is his claim & actions re opposing imperialism.
    Attacking him with imperial weapons is a great way to empower him, empower his followers, empower any movement that may survive him.
    Investment in weapons and poor Governmental decisions are mortally wounding the United States' economy. The United States is quickly falling into third world status, and for one, am somewhat glad because I'm tired of all the killing and blood-letting in the name of democracy and freedom.
    Nato should be conflicted. Where is Nato's authorization to interfere in Libya. I'll tell you where it is: it lies with the American President, whoi didn't even consult Congress, as in "we the people".

  • Comment number 20.

    "Underlying pacifism"?
    Excuse me, but what the heck are the Americans doing in Iraq to encourage "underlying pacifism", keeping in mind that NATO = USA.
    James Jeffrey, the US ambassador in Iraq: "We'll be doubling our size if all of our plans go through and if we receive the money from Congress in 2011 and then again in 2012."
    What! Americans were supposed to go home, as in good-bye.
    James Jeffrey, the US ambassador in Iraq, said that the staff would increase "from 8,000 plus personnel that we have now to roughly double that by 2012," adding that US forces would make up only a very small part of that number.
    Then what is this "we" all about?
    The US Embassy in Baghdad is already the largest in the world and it is expected to double its staff AFTER AMERICAN FORCES PULL OUT OF THE COUNTRY LATER THIS YEAR. What does this mean?
    James Jeffrey, the US ambassador in Iraq: "We'll be doubling our size if all of our plans go through and if we receive the money from Congress in 2011 and then again in 2012." What is this mysterious "we"? Has the Iraq Government agreed, been consulted, given a choice? I thought Iraq wanted the Americans out!
    James Jeffrey, the US ambassador in Iraq: "This will be an extraordinarily large embassy with many different functions. He said a private security force some 5,500 strong will protect the large US diplomatic presence in Iraq.
    Some of the functions we will assume came from USFI (United States Forces in Iraq) and some of them are continuation of the work we are doing now."
    Mr Jeffrey said that US military advisers and trainers would stay or be added to support the Iraqi military with US-made equipment such as M1A1 tanks and other weaponry. He said the added personnel would not include combat troops.
    Fewer than 50,000 US troops are currently in Iraq, down from a peak of more than 170,000 and ahead of the PLANNED FULL WITHDRAWAL IN LATE 2011.
    Jeffrey and Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin, the commander of US military forces in Iraq, told members of the Armed Services Committee in February that the embassy would be well protected after the withdrawal.
    He and Austin said they were confident that the force was adequate, and that Iraq will remain stable once US troops have departed. To tell you the truth, I would rather have combat troops than unaccountable, often irresponsible contractors.
    They said that in 2012, the American presence in Iraq will consist of up to 20,000 civilians at sites that include two embassy branches, two consulates, and three police training centres.
    The figure INCLUDES ARMED PRIVATE SECURITY PERSONNEL, support staff and diplomats.
    Currently there are 2,700 armed security contractors in Iraq, Jeffrey told the senators. So, combat troops to be withdrawn will be more than offset by private security personnel who answer to no one - not even the American Government itself which can't seem to keep track of contracting expense accounts.
    "Underlying pacifism"!

  • Comment number 21.

    From Spiegel:,1518,755616,00.html

    Stalemate and a long drawn out civil war seems very likely now.

    There is no chance of winning the peace if you can't first win the war. There was no point in starting this war, on encouraging the rebels, if there wasn't the freedom of action and the resources to win.

    The big mistake at the beginning was for the likes Cameron and Sarkozy to make Gaddafi personally the target of their rhetoric. This bounced NATO into the postion where regime change was their de-facto aim. They might have deceived themselves that they were acting out of morality, but they haven't got the resources or the will to finish the job. Therefore they have helped no-one and made the situation worse. Ironically it seems that both sides in Libya feel betrayed by the West. The expense has been enormous and will be worse as Europe flounders in the face of an increased migration/refugee crisis.

    In 'Shogun', James Clavell made 'Toranaga' say: "Everything's right if you win.

    Stupid to fail. Unforgivable."

    Foreign policy, "ethical" or otherwise, must be based on the realpolitik of what is actually achievable, and not on pious wishful thinking.

    The trouble is, in the case of Libya, failure was predicitable and predicted. Careless rhetoric really has cost lives, and will cost more.


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