I’ve Seen This Movie Before

Stop me if you’ve seen this movie before.  A nation with a longtime dictator who has gone to the level of bombing his own citizens veers dangerously towards civil war and anarchy in a strategic part of Africa, leading the international community led by the United States to send a humanitarian mission in.  Have you seen this movie before?  The movie has been made before, by Ridley Scott, about Mogadishu in 1993, in a film called Black Hawk Down [1].  Unfortunately, it looks like some decision makers want to make a remake of the film in Libya.

Despite the fact that the situation in Libya is very serious and troubling [2] and is occurring in an area important to Europe (Libya supplies about 1/4 of Italy’s natural gas and oil needs, and is just south of the new EU member Malta), it is unclear why the two main nations involved in this mission are the United States and Canada, two nations that have few strategic interests in Libya.

The military build-up for this “humanitarian” mission is impressive on the surface.  The United States is sending a carrier task force group with the USS Enterprise, along with about 700 marines in the USS Kearsarge.  Additionally, Canada is sending a frigate, the HMCS Charlottetown, along with a helicopter force, in order to help with evacuations, enforcing sanctions, and whatever other combat may ensure [3].  It’s hard to think this is a good move–Gaddafi is nuttier than a fruitcake and it’s not as if the United States needs another armed conflict on its hands.  Not to be outdone, Italy is sending a mission to help refugees just across the border in Tunisia [4].

There are a few big problems with the scenario that seems to be going down.  For one, too many nations have conspicuous potential Western hostages to make this a clean operation.  For another, the United States and Canada do not have any vital interests in Libya, nor a great deal of contacts with Libyans who might replace Gaddafi if/when he is overthrown.  The fact that there is a provocative amount of troops but not enough to really control the situation in an ill-defined mission in a non-strategic part of the world with a crazy lunatic dictator does not sound like a recipe for success.  I’m a bit puzzled why Europe is not taking a bigger role in this mess, given that they are the ones for whom this mission is more important than the United States and Canada.  Is the European Union outsourcing its military actions to the United States yet again?

It’s hard to understand what the rules of engagement are.  If the American and Canadian troops (or Italian forces handling refugee operations) are fired on by some of Gaddafi’s mercenaries, is there a commitment to the use of deadly force?  Does the United States (and its allies) commit to a policy of regime change in Libya?  Do we stand by and let Libya fall into a civil war or step into a quagmire?  Are there any good options?  It’s hard to see what we have to gain with this, and fairly easy to see that this could all go south in a hurry.  How far are we willing to go?  Do we even know?

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Hawk_Down_%28film%29

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/mixed-nuts-a-musing-on-uprising-in-libya/

[3] http://ca.news.yahoo.com/cdn-military-transport-aborts-oil-workers-rescue-refused-20110301-110129-345.html

[4] http://www.agi.it/english-version/italy/elenco-notizie/201103012127-pol-ren1108-libya_italy_to_launch_humanitarian_mission_in_tunisia

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, History, International Relations, Military History, Musings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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