Libya coalition: a unity of purpose, a multitude of opinions
The coalition of nations working to enforce the Libya no-fly zone are finding it difficult to balance their different political, military, and social concerns for the future of Libya.
There is an old Russian soldiers’ toast that Pentagon officials like to cite: May all of your enemies be coalitions.Skip to next paragraph
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It is the US military’s ironic nod to the complexities of coordinating allies with perhaps roughly similar intentions, but a vast array of political considerations and resources.
The war in Libya is no exception. The alliance of western and Arab nations comprising the coalition to enforce UN Resolution 1973 must broker their different political, military, and social concerns for the future of Libya – while balancing military realities on the ground.
The military coalition
As the United States prepares to hand off leadership of no-fly zone operations to NATO, operational command will remain much the same. The US will continue to lead coalition strikes on Libyan ground forces, a mission for which some allies have expressed little appetite, and some opposition.
NATO may yet take on a greater role in running overall operations, but for now, mission command is being transferred from one US general – the head of the Pentagon’s Africa Command – to another, Gen. James Stavridis, the supreme allied commander of NATO.
As coalition operations reach the end of their first week, key questions surround the transition and the shape of the coalition’s mission in the weeks to come. Among the most pressing: Will its scope be expanded? That hinges on the answer to another vital question: What, precisely, is its ultimate goal?
Different coalition members would give different answers. There have been a number of public tussles already in the first few days of an effort that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has acknowledged has been put together “on the fly.”
Some have insisted that Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi must go. Turkey objected to US air strikes on Libyan ground forces, saying that they go beyond the UN mandate of protecting civilians – much to the head-scratching of other western officials. The Arab League, which initially authorized military action against a fellow Arab state for the first time in its history, began expressing similar qualms shortly after operations began. Until the United Arab Emirates announced Thursday that it would be joining operations, Qatar was the only Arab state to publicly commit forces to the operation.