of my favorite military historians is Richard Kohn, author of,
among other things, the best
book on the creation of the U.S. military establishment after the
Revolution. Dick, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill, also thinks a lot about contemporary national security issues. So when he
expresses worry, I pay attention.
the other hand, Defense Secretary Gates in Egypt this morning
we are gonna hand over the NFZ ball this weekend. Which would be a good thing.
Best Defense office of contemporary military history
Let me explain why Libya's different and shouldn't be overlaid like the tracing
paper of our youth either on other interventions or other situations currently
in the Middle East.
1. This is an actual rebellion that came close to shattering the regime, not a
bunch of demonstrations or a non-violent uprising/rebellion as in Tunisia and
2. The rebels seized territory, took up arms, and got help from defectors in
the indigenous military.
3. European "allies" pushed us, not the other way around; Arab League
and Gulf Cooperation Council agreed, and pushed us. We got a U.N. Security
Council Mandate! This is second in importance.
4. Most important, Qaddafi has long been an international outlaw and worse than
Saddam in this sense: he attacked the U.S. military personnel in Berlin in 1986
and murdered Americans on Pan Am 103 in 1988, and was developing nuclear
weapons. A toxic trifecta. He made nice in 2003 when he saw what a U.S. president,
spouting pre-emption, was doing to Iraq. And he's quite unpredictable -- that is,
he doesn't just err like Saddam; he'll do the irrational.
5. Last, it looked easy, quick, and cheap--that old siren song.
4 and 3 in that order govern. Here was an opportunity to rid the world and
region of a really bad and dangerous actor, allow the United States to have it both ways
in both promoting democracy and still support friends, warn uglies like the
Syrian leader not to make war openly on his own folk, and get our friends in
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Yemen to try to cool it.
it work? Steve
Walt in this case raises the right flags. We have been late, our mission is
unclear, and the commitment of our word and our prestige so great that I fear
we have a long term mess on our hands. OUR hands, not just the Europeans
or the administration. Even if we hand this off now, it could, like Bosnia, end
up with the United States having to bail out our friends, at great cost.
again: Here's another list of distinctions from another prof, old Juan
Cole. But he's happier with the NFZ than is Prof. Kohn.
demonstrating that the military mind can find humor in anything, a drunk Predator drone is
twittering from somewhere over Libya. Here's one: "Sandy as shit around here. And confusing. There are raggedy
dudes in pickups everywhere, with scarves and AKs...and they're the GOOD guys?"
Here's another: "Libya looks like Tom Friedman's vision of the world. Hot,
flat, crowded, and occasionally infested with American cruise missiles and
(HT to WoI)
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