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Over the Horizon: Initial Lessons Learned From Libyan Intervention

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The NATO campaign in Libya has just begun its second month, and the situation on the ground is not improving. The defenses of Misurata are deteriorating, and rebel forces appear to be falling back from Adjadibya. In spite of the deteriorating tactical situation, however, the leaders of France, the United Kingdom and the United States have formulated in very certain terms the maximalist strategic goals of the campaign: the end of Moammar Gadhafi's grip on power. The basic problem remains one of complete incoherence between strategic goals and operational means. Paris, London and Washington want Gadhafi gone. However, none of the three powers are willing to deploy the forces necessary to topple the Gadhafi regime. They are left with the vain hopes that Gadhafi will simply abandon Libya, or that the rebels will magically become capable of winning the war.

Though the situation on the ground is still unsettled, it is not too early to think about the lessons learned from the NATO intervention in Libya's civil war. Nevertheless, with disturbances continuing across the Arab world, it is worth thinking through not simply the lessons that have been learned thus far, but the disjuncture between those lessons and the ones the international community might have wanted to impart. ...

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