A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, March 18, 2011

More on Intervention: The Military Issues

Further to my initial reactions of last night, a few thoughts before anything starts to happen in the Libyan intervention:
  • A robust European participation. It's good that the US will not be taking the lead, though of course US forces, AWACS and other surveillance assets will be present. The absence of a US carrier contributes to this, but it's best not to let Qadhafi paint this as an American operation.
  • Air strikes are essential, but may also be enough. Bosnia and Kossovo may be suitable parallels. The main advantage the Qadhafi forces have is their air power and armor. This is classic tank country, made famous by Rommel and Montgomery. If the armor can be blunted by air strikes, it can have real effect.
  • There probably already are special operators on the ground. Everyone has made clear that there sill be no invasion, no "boots on the ground." In terms of infantry that will surely be the case, but special operations forces are probably already present. Recall that an SAS team already got caught blundering around in eastern Libya. I suspect their American and French equivalents are there too.
  • The question of Egyptian involvement. Egypt has the most immediate interests in play here, and the largest Army in the region. There are already reports that Egypt is providing small arms to the rebels and may be providing elite special forces to train the rebels as well. I suspect that, short of Qadhafi forces crossing the international border, the Egyptians will keep their involvement fairly low-key and deniable; they are still in the middle of revolutionary ferment and the military, which is running the country now, is understandably preoccupied. But if push came to shove, the only nearby state that could field a large enough Army to crush the Qadhafi forces is Egypt's.

1 comment:

David Mack said...

Note that the UNSC resolution rules out "occupation", not all forms of foreign military involvement on the ground. No fly zone is only a part of measures that, taken together, would be effective in defending eastern Libya from Qadhafi's strung out military forces. Much harder are the objectives implicit in Obama's statement this afternoon: protection of civilians in Misurata and Zawiya and, beyond that, Qadhafi leaving office. This latter objective will take time, and I can only wonder how the coalition can deal with near term humanitarian crises in Misurata and Zawiya.