Analysis: International coalition for Libya operation is smallest since end of Cold War

How dishonest has the left/media spin about The One’s alleged diplomatic triumph been? Go look at the sentence Jeffrey Goldberg pulled from Reuters’s latest excrescence. Somewhere Tony Blair is reading these comparisons of Obama’s League of Justice to Cowboy George having “gone it alone” and wondering if he hallucinated those years of endless screeching about him being “Bush’s poodle” for sending thousands of British troops to hold southern Iraq together.

Anyway, here’s how triumphant our coalition-building triumph is:

The Cable compiled a chart listing all the countries that contributed at least some military assets to the five major military operations in which the United States participated in a coalition during the last 20 years: the 1991 Gulf War (32 countries participating), the 1995 Bosnia mission (24 countries), the 1999 Kosovo mission (19 countries), the 2002 invasion of Afghanistan (48 countries), and the 2003 invasion of Iraq (40 countries), at the height of the size of each coalition. As of today, only 15 countries, including the United States, have committed to providing a military contribution to the Libya war…

Obama put a priority on “formal multilateralism,” as opposed to “operational multilateralism,” concentrating on getting international political bodies to endorse the Libya attack before he focused on getting individual countries to pledge actual military contributions, Bosco said. That’s why the administration, primarily the State Department, is working the phones now to ask countries such as the UAE to chip in a few planes here and there…

Bosco also said Obama was practicing “a la carte multilateralism” by trumpeting the endorsement of certain regional international organizations, such as the Arab League, while dismissing the opinions of other groups, such as the African Union, which strongly opposed the intervention…

Wayne White, a former senior State Department intelligence official now with the Middle East Institute, noted that another problem with the Obama administration’s efforts to build a coalition was its own apparent lack of enthusiasm about the war. It was keenly aware of the war-weary U.S. populace, concerned about the burden of its strategic commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and unsure how this would play out in an extremely competitive and divisive election next year, White said.

You can compare the coalitions for each war waged over the past 20 years side-by-side here. Obama’s “triumph” consists of adding two new ingredients to the stew: One is France, which is acting for its own selfish reasons (oil interests, Sarkozy’s domestic political problems, a chance to reclaim some “national greatness” on the cheap), and the other is Arab support via the Arab League, which is trying to stay relevant after decades of serving as a dictator talking shop by surfing the new tide of populist sentiment in the region. France and the Arab League legitimize the mission singlehandedly because, of course, they normally represent anti-American constituencies; if they’re onboard, the thinking goes, then Obama must have performed a truly Houdini-esque feat of diplomatic magic. But that’s stupid: If anything, France persuaded The One into intervening here, not vice versa. They were the ones pressing fervently for an operation while Obama was mulling things over. And the only reason they did that was because they had to have a coalition with America to make the operation feasible, knowing all the while that we’d be forced to take the lead and they’d be credited with “leadership” while providing relatively little by way of assets. In fact, even in our rush to get this thing off our shoulders (as one senior White House official eloquently put it), we’re still going to be in de facto command of the operation via NATO. Not only is this not really “our” coalition, then, but in an operational sense, it’s not much of a coalition at all. And yet somehow we’re the major player. Neat trick, Sarkozy.

A question for those who are super impressed by the new League of Justice: Why, given the comparatively low risk of the operation, isn’t the coalition much bigger? Every potential member understands that, apart from the U.S., UK, and France, their contributions will be token and intended merely to provide symbolic “international legitimacy.” Shouldn’t people be lining up to add a ship or two to the fleet? The only reason I can come up with for why they wouldn’t is that they think either that Qaddafi will survive and will be looking for revenge or that, irrespective of what happens to Qaddafi, Arab opinion of the mission will sour and it’ll turn into a diplomatic clusterfark. Either way, doesn’t say much for the awesomeness of the coalition, does it?

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Jazz Shaw 8:01 PM on December 06, 2022