The military operation that the U.S., the U.K. and France have launched against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi thus far lacks a clear set of strategic goals. The coalition partners cannot agree regarding whether the operation is intended to remove Gadhafi, to support rebel operations against Gadhafi loyalists or simply to protect civilians from attack by Gadhafi’s military forces. The lack of a strong, well-defined set of strategic objectives means that military operations in and over Libya are likely to be incoherent. All this is bad enough, but perhaps worse is that there is little indication that France, the U.K. or […]
Recent events in Libya have refocused attention on Libya’s remaining chemical agents, with particular concern over the possibility that Moammar Gadhafi will use them against the Libyan insurgents or against other targets, such as Western civilians. But there are also fears that the Libyan government could somehow lose control of some of the agents, whether due to ongoing domestic chaos or an eventual collapse of the regime, allowing terrorists to acquire them. Leaders of the coalition currently enforcing the U.N.-mandated no-fly zone over Libya need to adopt a strong declaratory policy against any misuse of these agents, even while they […]
Greg Scoblete responded to my argument in support of a military intervention in Libya, which he aptly dubbed the “Because We Can” standard, by questioning just what it is we think we can do: It’s important to recognize that intervening in Libya and bombing Gaddafi’s supporters is not the same thing as finding a politically acceptable end-state to the country’s rebellion — a fact that is being resolutely overlooked by most of the campaign’s supporters. So, yes, there are very low barriers to entry in Libya, which makes it attractive where a campaign against Bahrain or Burma is much less […]
For many years, the United States has been the world’s most powerful nation. It remains the undisputed global leader in military power and still possesses vast economic and cultural influence. And while Washington’s ability to combine both hard and soft power to influence world events — what Joseph Nye calls “smart power” — has diminished somewhat, it is still in a far superior position relative to any other country. U.S. primacy, however, comes with opportunity costs. An alternate path might have delivered a comparable level of security at far less expense and risk. Even many who unabashedly celebrate our 20-year […]
The opening acts of the 21st century have fundamentally challenged long-held notions of military power. The past decade has unveiled not only the disruptive power of terrorist groups with global reach, but also the ability of low-budget insurgent groups to directly confront the best military forces of the West — with surprising success. Moreover, recent revolutionary events across the Arab world have demonstrated the limits of military power when facing mass popular uprisings. Disorder, chaos and violent extremism seem on course to replace state-on-state violence as the most common forms of conflict in the new century. Given this new security […]
I was invited to participate Friday on France 24’s panel discussion program, The World This Week. We focused primarily on Libya, where the actual initial air strikes had yet to occur, but the discussion holds up notwithstanding. Other guests included France 24’s own Nahida Nakad, the Sunday Telegraph’s Anne-Elisabeth Moutet and Bloomberg’s Craig Copetas. Part one is here. Part two is here. This is one of those rare times where I was able to coherently and effectively express everything on my mind, with no need for clarification or expansion. The only thing I’d add is that, while I have not […]
Senior military figures, diplomats and officials in Yemen are abandoning theirpresident of the last 32 years. Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government has been beseiged for weeks by protests in the capital Sanaa. On Friday, more than 50 were killed in a crackdown on the streets. BySunday, president Saleh had sacked all ofhis ministers.
Four separate assaults by rebel forces in Colombia have left at least 11 dead. Authorities say the FARC and ELN guerrilla groups are responsible. Three civilians were killed in a rebel attack on a town in the Colombian region of Norte de Santander on Friday. The human death toll in rebel attacks over the last 24 hours now stands at eleven.
There are plenty of compelling arguments against the intervention in Libya. The fact that it takes place as President Barack Obama embarks on his first tour of Latin America highlights the way in which our disproportionate and outdated engagement in the Middle East distracts us strategically from what I consider to be more important priorities in our own hemisphere. The delay in taking action allowed for a broad if fragile multilateral mandate, but also probably reduced the likelihood that the intervention will be immediately decisive and thereby raised the risk of a drawn-out stalemate. I, for one, think we could […]
Thursday’s U.N.-sanctioned no-fly zone over Libya and the military strikes against Moammar Gadhafi’s ground forces that followed over the weekend may have come too late for Libya’s freedom-seeking people. Even a ceasefire or internationally imposed standoff between Gadhafi’s forces and the anti-government fighters in Benghazi and elsewhere would merely maintain the status quo, with Gadhafi remaining in control of most of the country. If so, Gadhafi will have demonstrated to autocrats everywhere that terror is an effective means of maintaining power at home and instilling uncertainty and fear abroad. This should come as no surprise, as Gadhafi is not new […]
Writing in his World Politics Review column this week, Thomas P.M. Barnett warned that the United States’ response to the Libyan uprising risks turning Ian Bremmer’s and David Gordon’s prediction of a “G-zero” world into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Specifically, Barnett argued that by failing to take the lead in organizing an intervention to tip the scales in the Libyan civil war on behalf of the opposition to Moammar Gadhafi, the Obama administration was “purposefully abdicat[ing] its global leadership role.” Another reading is that the administration’s reaction to the Libyan uprising reflects the degree to which it allowed itself to be […]
Contrary to what opponents of a military intervention in Libya are claiming, the U.S. is not at war with Libya. In fact, it’s very possible that the U.S. will not even be directly engaged in any eventual acts of war against Libya. And though endgames, outcomes and objectives are valid concerns and necessary considerations, much of the hand-wringing is premature. The U.N. Security Council resolution will allow outside powers to target Moammar Gadhafi’s air and ground forces to keep them from delivering the final blow that was all but imminent even as the council voted on the measure last night. […]
Next week the United States will mark the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq — widely considered one of the worst foreign policy disasters in American history. Meanwhile, more than 100,000 U.S. troops remain mired in Afghanistan, nine years after the Taliban were toppled from power. Both conflicts are daily reminders that the use of U.S. military force can have unforeseen and often unpredictable consequences. For that reason, force should be considered only in the most pressing of national security circumstances. Unfortunately, if the response to the uprising in Libya is any indication, it seems many members of the […]
While international attention is focused on Libya, violence has also erupted on the other side of Africa, in Côte D’Ivoire. Tensions have been steadily rising since the country’s incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to step down after challenger Alassane Ouattara was widely recognized as having won November’s election. But intense gun battles erupted last weekend, when, according to the New York Times, forces loyal to Gbagbo began an assault to drive Ouattara’s fighters out of the Abobo district of Abidjan, the country’s financial capital. The escalation in the fighting has prompted roughly 200,000 people to flee the city, and raises […]
If there is one thing we have learned from the events of the last few weeks, it is to expect the unexpected and to at least consider the possibility that worst-case scenarios will materialize. No one could have predicted that in a matter of a few hours the world’s third-largest economy would suffer a triple disaster — a massive earthquake, a devastating tsunami and a slow-motion nuclear nightmare — just as no one expected that a fruit salesman in Tunisia would trigger a chain reaction of uprisings in the Middle East. Nassim Taleb called these high-impact, low-probability events Black Swans, […]
The American commander of all coalition forces in Afghanistan, Army General David Petraeus, says security responsibility will begin to be transferred to Afghan forces in the coming months and that U.S. troops will begin to withdraw in July as planned.