Operation Odyssey Dawn Reveals Deep Discomfort

Within a month of the start of humanitarian intervention in Libya, deep discomfort is clearly apparent among the coalition partners. Difference has surfaced between the U.S. and other NATO members about the approach to resolve the crisis. The leadership of coalition forces to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya has been shifted to NATO. The U.S. seemed too worried not to alienate its Middle Eastern partners and hence it is not leading the military intervention.

With enough multilateral cover for the Libyan war, NATO is not constrained as in Kosovo operation. However, in 1999 Kosovo war the U.S. led and provided its military muscle to NATO from the beginning to the end. Strong American leadership backed by the European allies then produced clear outcome.  Victory heals all sorts of wounds though in fact the intervention in Kosovo endangered more lives than it intended to save.

The UN-authorized NATO military campaign against Libya has entered its fourth week.  Frustratingly,  Cease-Fire Plan has not been agreed yet. For a regional alliance like NATO engaged in war with two Muslim countries i.e. Afghanistan and Libya, the danger of losing its credibility as a deterring force is fast increasing. Fighting a war as a military alliance comprising 28 diverse members with divided mentality is indeed complicated. Germany has already positioned itself outside the western consensus by not voting for UN resolution 1973 on March 17.

Non-participation of any Arab army in ongoing Operation Odyssey Dawn despite Arab League’s political cover has prompted critics like Iran to frame the Libyan war as a western ploy against a Muslim country. Nonetheless, offer of certain logistical support in the Libyan intervention from U.A.E. and Qatar has made the operation a coalition of the willing.

In view of its special relationship with Israel and resultant bias in its favor evidenced in scores of vetoed UN resolutions deemed critical of the Jewish State, America has a reputational problem in the Middle East. Against such background it is really difficult for Obama administration to be out front in Libya with dominating military involvement.

Little wonder that the U.S., not willing to be seen as engaged in Libya with offensive military force and desiring other European countries particularly France and Britain to take over the command and control of the NATO mission, has decided to withdraw certain precision-attack aircrafts from the war theater. These are AC-10 and AC-130 special ground attack aircrafts whose withdrawal has significantly impacted on NATO air campaign in Libya.

Based on this some Europeans have grumbled that the U.S. is not pulling its weight in NATO. While the Joint Statement by the presidents of the U.S., France and the prime minister of Britain echoes their hidden desire to force Colonel Qaddafi to step down, a classical dilemma looks inevitable as current UN authorization does not go beyond the protection of the Libyan population. The passage of a new resolution from the UN Security Council to legitimize Qaddafi’s ouster amidst the Russian and Chinese objections will be a hard nut to crack.

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