By lex, on April 13th, 2011
With Uncle Sam coyly playing the part of supporting actor, John Bull and Marianne are teaming up to hector the NATO coalition to greater efforts:
Britain and France, for example, are now flying the bulk of the attack missions, with Norway, Denmark and Canada also striking Libyan targets on the ground. But other countries, including the Netherlands, Sweden, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, are taking less aggressive roles, enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya or conducting reconnaissance missions, in a nod to political considerations back home.
The varying tactics reflect the different ways in which each country in the coalition views the mission, and how tough it has been to corral all the participants into focused attacks.
In Washington, Obama administration officials sought to tamp down a growing sense of concern among some military analysts that the combination of the Americans’ back-seat role, NATO’s inexperience in waging a complicated air campaign against moving targets and botched communications with the ragtag rebel army had thrown the mission into disarray. In the past week, NATO pilots were involved in two friendly-fire instances that killed well over a dozen rebel fighters.
Meantime, as some allies privately hope for the return of the American-led ground-attack missions, other coalition partners have expressed concern that their supplies of precision-guided bombs are running low after more than 800 strike missions.
On the eve of the Iraq war in 2003, I sat in the war room of a an aircraft carrier at sea in the Arabian Gulf, being provided with guidance on where my ship fit in to the massive campaign about to unfold. We were trained to nearly a fever point, had access to almost instant intelligence and were supported by a massive logistical effort which filled the skies above us with parts, people and fuel for our aircraft even as the sea lanes swam with replenishment ships carry fuel oil, food and armaments. Behind these physical manifestations of readiness I could sense the lidless eyes of many ten thousand analysts, operations planners and logisticians.
I actually felt sorry for Saddam’s army. Although they outnumbered the coalition forces ranged against them by better than 2:1, were to fight on their home turf and had the advantage of interior lines, they had no idea what they were about to face. Our forces, on the other hand, had prepared for just this fight for a dozen years.
I’m not getting the same vibe this time around in Libya.