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Why NATO Members Disagree on Libya

The 28 NATO members gave the Alliance a new Strategic Concept with three core tasks: collective defense, crisis management and cooperative security. Yet, just four months after the historic Lisbon summit, the members disagree considerably on NATO's role in the crisis management concerning Libya.

After many long deliberations NATO is currently only responsible for enforcing an arms embargo against Libya, although NATO has completed plans to "help enforce the no-fly zone," as Secretary General Rasmussen explains in a very long and diplomatic sentence in this video:


James Joyner of the Atlantic Council posts a "slightly tongue-in-cheek, guide to the intra-alliance debate over NATO's role in Libya":

The Italians want NATO to take over so they can avoid national responsibility  (i.e., tell their Arab friends "it's not us, it's NATO, so we don't have a choice").

The French want to keep NATO out because they want to prove that THEY are the true friends of the Arabs, and they'll keep that bad NATO away.

The Germans want to keep NATO out because they don't believe in military action, and NATO having responsibility means Germany would be held to be responsible.  (...)

The US wants NATO to take over as a "handoff" -- even though it means a handoff to ourselves.   In the American political lexicon, NATO has come to mean "Europe" -- and the Obama team just wants to hand off so it's not an "Obama war." (...)

Apart from that, we've got a consensus!

Oh, boy.

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Pat Patterson on :

The subtext of this new doctrine was let the US act and lead then we'll blame them for overacting and seizing leadership. Obama, unfortunately, simply wants to be one of the boys and play nice.

Marie Claude on :

"The Germans want to keep NATO out because they don't believe in military action, and NATO having responsibility means Germany would be held to be responsible." The German (the government) were only interested in Domestic policy comment from a american friend: "The Foreign minister is ALWAYS selected from the minor wing-man party of the governing coalition. Which means that the Germany FM is from the isolationist, non-interventionist wing of German politics. The FM position is always given to the minority of the majority precisely because Germany has no activist foreign policies — so the FM is occupied warming a bench and of no hazard to the real politics of Germany: domestic. "By abstaining in the Security Council on the resolution authorizing military action to protect Libyan civilians — and by refusing on Wednesday to participate in the enforcement of an arms embargo on Libya that the United Nations authorized — Germany pointedly refused to go along with the political aims and leadership of its two most important European allies, Britain and France, as well as the United States." http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/24/world/europe/24germany.html?_r=2&hp doesn't seem that Merkel's decision reached the German's wishes, that majoritarly expressed in a poll (Der Spiegel) that they wanted to be in ! “Gianpiero Cantoni, said the original French anti-NATO stance was motivated by a desire to secure oil contracts with a future Libyan government. quand même ces Italiens osent tout ! when anyone knows that Libya is Italy’s private domain: “Libya exports 32 percent of oil to Italy I love la Comedia del Arte à la Italiana ! http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1368693/Libya-war-Germans-pull-forces-NATO-Libyan-coalition-falls-apart.html "Italy announced today that it will lead the NATO embargo against Libya with 16 ships/subs. Preventing the smuggling of weapons at sea to the regime while allowing some modicum of trade and humanitarian support to continue will be a significant undertaking" They will be happy, the Italians... and Kadhafi too ! http://www.informationdissemination.net/2011/03/questioning-efficacy-of-libyan-maritime.html "The French want to keep NATO out because they want to prove that THEY are the true friends of the Arabs, and they'll keep that bad NATO away. " NO, because we know how they react ! "The reason Italy wants NATO is because they know NATO adds an extra layer of political bureaucracy to operations and will almost certainly result in Gaddafi remaining in power. The likely result is an insurgency movement inside Libya, and this becomes a long term stalemate. NATO comes with significant military advantages though, because NATO is organized in a way to seemlessly integrate operations from all the participating NATO members. There is a lot to be said about the high level of C2 NATO enables for military operations. France on the other hand knows that NATO will restrict the flexibility of nations to act unilaterally in Libya. While this has not been officially stated, France would like to kill Gaddafi, and like the US has a policy of regime change. By operating outside the restrictions of NATO, France can be much more flexible with their interpretation of the UN Security Council Resolution when taking military action. France believes they can reset the security conditions inside Libya by decapitating the government of Libya, and set conditions for Libya towards reforms. I am uncertain why this also wouldn't lead to insurgency, but some very smart French folks I know believe conditions similar to Tunisia and Egypt will emerge once Gaddafi is gone. Their better argument is that it won't guarantee an insurgency outcome like a NATO led operation almost certainly does." http://www.informationdissemination.net/2011/03/few-thoughts-on-libya.html

John in Michigan, US on :

Excellent, very timely post. Thoughts: 1) The UN-NATO system apparently cannot even steel itself sufficiently to go after known pirate base-ships on the high seas. Therefore, I am not optimistic about the alleged Libyan arms embargo. So far the main effect of the embargo has been to starve the rebels of weapons. 2) A huge part NATO's problem re Libya is Turkey, who, according to the Middle East Cold War hypothesis, tends to side with Iran on these issues. Iran, deathly afraid that the Arab Spring could spread to Persia, is now essentially supporting Ghaddafi, which influences the Turkish position. Before the Iraq War, NATO had a similar problem. OIF was not a NATO operation, but required NATO resources for various reasons, one of which, in supreme irony, was the defense of the Turkey-Iraq border. Back then, the NATO hold-out was France. The solution was a nearly-forgotten group called the [url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/belgium/1422356/Nato-ends-deadlock-on-Turkey.html]NATO Defense Planning Committee[/url], which was the mechanism for deciding NATO issues separately from NATO's "political" wing. This committee was a legacy of France's departure in 1967. I wonder if there is a similar committee that could be used to bypass Turkish intransigence? 3) I am very, very concerned about war by committee, more commonly known as the Vietnam Syndrome. 4) Assassination would be delightful, although it would presumably exceed the UN mandate. Another approach, that also presumably exceeds the mandate, would be to work with the Libyan rebels in the same way as the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. L'audace, toujours de l'audace! But US special forces are tied up right now, it would have to be someone else's operation... 5) A persistent theme in Obama's foreign policy has been to demand concessions from our friends, while treating our enemies with kid gloves. An advantage of this controversial engagement in Libya is that we weaken that perception somewhat.

Marie Claude on :

burocrats shouldn't decide with whom you should ally. Now, this NATO machin is still the cement of EUrope, otherwise, with no common defense, there's no EU nation

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