Sunday, April 10, 2011

The objectives of the military intervention in Libya

I have been quite puzzled by the back and forth between rebels and Gaddafi loyalists on the Mediterranean coast of Libya, even after the UN/NATO strikes. It reminded me of the feeling you have when you read the accounts of the WWII battles there, where because of its geographical characteristics, you can advance and retreat really fast in those regions. However, with western firepower, how can the regime loyalists still wage strong attacks on the first large city west of Benghazi, Adjabiya?

An article in today's New York Times gave an interesting set of related facts

First, NATO is not completely taking the side of the rebels. That might be warranted, given the account of the killing of a potential Gaddafi loyalist mentioned in the article. The main point here was this tidbit:
two NATO fighter jets working to maintain a no-fly zone forced a rebel pilot who had taken off in a Libyan Air Force MiG-23 fighter to return to Benina Air Base outside of Benghazi. 
Once again, it is not clear what is really going on, but this plays well with  the theoretical goal of the mission in Libya: Gaddafi's loyalists are "allowed" to advance(of course, there are other factors, such as weather, the transition to NATO, the fact that Gaddafi loyalists changed vehicles and weapons to be less distinguishable from the eastern rebels), and the rebels are not favored in the implementation of the no-fly zone.

Second, and related to this story, the article quotes a spokesman for the National Security Council
“The president has been very clear from the outset that our military effort has been focused on civilian protection, particularly in protecting the people of Benghazi, as well as working to avert a humanitarian crisis in other major population centers.”

There is a big stress on Benghazi, and that should probably remind us of the speech Barack Obama made after the UN agreement, comparing Benghazi to Charlotte in terms of population. The point here is that even if some people have mentioned that the actual mission was to topple Gaddafi, it seems that the intervening forces are actually limiting themselves to exactly what was mentioned in the resolution and stressed by Barack Obama.  Note the quote from the NATO operation’s commander in Naples
[He]was silent on the government troops’ advance on Ajdabiya, except to note that allied warplanes had bombed Libyan troops that attacked civilians.

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