NATO still refusing to take over Odyssey Dawn

NBC’s Today show reports that Moammar Gaddafi’s troops continue to advance on rebel positions despite taking a beating from US and other Western forces in Operation Odyssey Dawn — as Richard Engle experiences first-hand. The reporter has to dive for cover just as he’s showing the toy gun that one of the rebel fighters wields. The skirmish outside Ajdabiya in eastern Libya demonstrates that the no-fly zone is not having much of an impact on poorly armed and poorly organized rebels:

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Speaking of poorly organized, NATO again failed to take command of Odyssey Dawn from the US, as Turkey continues its objections:

While the fighting raged, NATO again failed to agree to take over command of the military operation “Odyssey Dawn” from the United States, chiefly because of objections from Turkey, diplomats said.

The United States, with its forces already tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan, said it wants to give up its lead role in Libya in a “matter of days,” with NATO playing an important role in the command of the operation, although the exact structure of its role was still under discussion.

France, which launched the air campaign against Libya with Britain and the United States on Saturday, argues that having the U.S.-led NATO in charge would erode Arab support because of the alliance’s unpopularity in the Arab world.

If so, then why did the Arab League demand action from the UN when the only military alliance in the region was NATO?  If the issue is American leadership, then ask the Arab League which armed forces they imagined would enforce a no-fly zone in North Africa, and which had the resources at the ready to do so.  Thanks to American security leadership in Europe for over 60 years, the US would have to run at least the logistics of any large-scale military operation, and provide much of the firepower as well.  If that makes Turkey uncomfortable, then why are they in NATO at all?

Right now, it looks as though the US-European coalition has begun to fracture after less than a week.  Germany has already pulled its assets out of the fight.  Turkey’s gambit makes it all but impossible for the US to hand off leadership to anything or anyone else.  Regardless of the political courage Nicolas Sarkozy has shown thus far — and it’s considerable — he will not agree to make France alone the nation responsible for the success or failure of the Libyan adventure, and neither will any other NATO nation.  The Obama administration’s best hope to uncouple itself from a leadership role now is to create some ad-hoc alliance with a fancy name onto which Obama can dump this operation — but even then, it will demand American leadership in fact if not in name, thanks to the relative number of assets in the fight.