“Boots on the Ground” in Libya?

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Besides Gaddafi’s determination to stay on, probably the most important military factor influencing the British decision to send in ground troops is the weakness of the rebel forces. So far, the rebels have proven inadequate in battle against Gaddafi’s better-armed and better-trained troops, and apparently will remain so for some time yet. The Wall Street Journal reports, however, that the rebels’ battlefield performance is improving, possibly with the help of Western Special Forces troops. But NATO intelligence agents on the ground in Libya assessing the opposition forces have probably told their governments there will be no quick victory and removal of Gaddafi due to the rebel troops’ poor fighting condition.

However, a quick defeat of Gaddafi is needed if NATO is going to realise its other goal of resuming oil shipments as soon as possible. Libya is the major source of crude for France, Great Britain and Italy, who also have large investments in the North African country. Saudi Arabia is currently pumping more oil to make up for the Libyan shortfall.

To make matters worse, the fighting in Libya is currently taking place around Brega, a major oil facility and critical revenue earner. It would be harmful to both Libyan and NATO interests if the conflict should settle there into a stalemate, paralysing the oil flow for an extended period of time. Of all the goals the British hope to achieve with troop intervention, restarting the oil supply is the most important in the short term and may see the British troops only seize the oil terminals.

NATO appears to have ruled out negotiations with Gaddafi, although Gaddafi’s son is proposing a peace plan that would see a transition to a constitutional government. But this insistence on the Libyan dictator’s removal may not produce an end to the violence. Like in Afghanistan at the end of the Soviet conflict, the victorious tribes may begin to fight each other, especially over the prized oil areas. Moreover, the danger exists that radical Islamists, strengthened by weapons they looted from army arsenals, will attempt to move into any post-Gaddafi power vacuum. The Muslim Brotherhood is already regarding Libya as new territory for expansion.

The British will likely get around not having a UN mandate to send in ground troops by labelling the mission a humanitarian one. This intervention by a former colonial power, however limited, will undoubtedly anger Arab and other Third World countries. But after 11 days of air attacks, the Gaddafi regime is proving to be a resilient one, prompting, NATO believes, the need for a quick end to the war. It is also a need that would already have been conveyed to Obama and with which he is in agreement. But with no disengagement strategy and Libya continuing to disintegrate, once Western troops are ashore, past experience has shown it is never easy to get them out.


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  • Wesley69

    The responsibility for fighting this conflict should lie with the other members of NATO. There is no strategic interest here for the US. Obama should not send in any ground forces and should limit US participation. When you engage in regime change, you must next engage in nation-building. The US doesn't need this.

    We are currently involved in nation-building in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Will it be worth US blood and treasure? Will it be successful?? Do we have the people's minds and hearts?? How long will it be for us to be viewed as occupiers rather than friends???

    And some people want us to take out Gaddafi??? Forget it!!!

    • intrcptr2

      Problem is that Obama has handed operational control over to NATO. If the British are sending troops, under the NATO banner, what is to stop NATO command to demand troops from any or all member states, including the US? And at that point, how does Obama legitimately reject the command sent from Brussels?

      Pres. Obama has basically created the very situation that has motivated our longstanding refusal to ratify Art 47 of the UN Charter. In point of fact, he has already repudiated our traditional opposition to placing US troops under foreign command. What is truly frightening about THIS is that NO ONE has pointed this out.

      • Wesley69

        This business of regime change is dangerous. We are guilty of it since WWII. What happens with countries around the world demand regime change here in the US? What happens if Obama doesn't want to leave the presidency in 2012 and calls on the Chinese and Russians to help him stay in power???? This sounds crazy, but I would not put anything past the Organizer-in-Chief.

  • spinoneone

    600 British Marines are a good force. However, we have the LHA-5 Pelileu [2300 marines] and the LHD-5 Bataan [2000+ marines] on station off Libya today. These two ships come equipped with helicopters, Ospreys, and Harriers. Quite sufficient to take any city in Libya.

    • intrcptr2

      That's all well and good. But why does it matter? Why are we there in the first place, considering this, when the Ivory Coast is knee deep in blood?

      Neither the UN, nor NATO, were created to enable or justify international intervention in domestic insurrection.