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Libya Exposes Contradictions

James Joyner of the Atlantic Council has a great op-ed on Libya:

Yes, Gadhafi was ultimately ousted - after six months - with a European face on the fight. But it came at the cost of undermining our partners' confidence in American leadership as well as rendering hypocritical our complaints about European "caveats" in Afghanistan.

Second, the fight has both reaffirmed my belief that NATO is an absolutely vital vehicle for transatlantic cooperation and underscored my fear that it is structurally unsound. Headline writers to the contrary, the toppling of the Gadhafi regime is an unqualified success for the Alliance. Who else could have, in short order, coordinated a complex operation with American, Canadian, European and Arab states? Certainly, not the European Union. Nor was the French offer to simply lead in an ad hoc fashion acceptable to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and others. Years of working and training together under a stable institutional framework had created vital trust.

At the same time, however, the lack of investment in defense infrastructure that so many of us have been warning about for years - and that Bob Gates so eloquently outlined in his parting shots as U.S. defense secretary - was laid bare in the skies over Libya.

Despite the Europeans having far more at stake in their own backyard than the Americans - and France and the United Kingdom spearheading the intervention - the fact of the matter was that the operation would simply not have been possible without the United States.

I agree with James Joyner's analysis, but I would not describe Libya as our "backyard" as the Mediterranean Sea is between us. Bosnia is close and could be described as a "backyard". Europe has to be able to prevent massacres in Srebrenica and elsewhere on our own continent next time. Libya is further way than a backyard. It's at least as far away as a "petrol station."

I appreciate James' balanced criticism of Germany in contrast to the pundits' herd:

Third, there is a serious disconnect between the will to intervene and the ability to do so. The Germans are rightly taking blistering criticism from not only their NATO partners but many of their own elder statesmen, most recently former Chancellor Helmut Kohl. But at least their reluctance to invest in their own defense is matched with reluctance to project power. (.) In the UK and France, by contrast, the combination of war weariness and the ravages of the economic crisis have forced austerity. (.) Yet, this has not thus far been met with a decreased appetite to project power.

 

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