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DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


April 13, 2011

Libya: In Your Face

Norman M. Covert

Apparently the “Buck…” touted by President Barack Obama, stops in Libya, not in the Oval Office. Col. Moammar Gadhafi continues to be in Mr. Obama’s face, surviving both rebels and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Joint Task Force. Reports of his impending demise are apparently exaggerated.

 

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced early this week his assessment that military action would probably not suffice to force Colonel Gadhafi out, that it would take lengthy negotiation. In other words, the mission is doomed. Mr. Gadhafi will probably emerge even stronger in his confederation of Libyan tribes.

 

Press and diplomatic dispatches portray a confounding outcome in this version of Mr. Obama’s belated attempt at nation building. If past action is an indicator, Mr. Obama will look for an excuse to get out of town. It appears he can neither lead, nor hide in the White House.

 

Colonel Gadhafi’s public appearances, on the other hand, trumpet his attitude of invincibility. He may indeed have the proverbial nine lives.

 

There hasn’t been this much military movement in Libya since World War II, when the British forces found Tobruk and Benghazi difficult to retain. German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel earned the title “Desert Fox” because Libya and much of Egypt was his military playground. He surrendered only after Adolph Hitler abandoned the vaunted Afrika Corps, which fought a wadi-to-wadi defense.

 

In a reprise of history, rebels have captured and lost the same territory in today’s back and forth. They captured the road between Benghazi and Tobruk in the early fighting. However, for the most part, Gadhafi’s forces have taken control again. This morning’s headline may tell a different story.

 

The assurance of victory was short lived after the initial bombardment with American Tomahawk missiles. What can go wrong, did go wrong with the NATO Joint Task Forces.

 

NATO has questionable or no “command and control” capability. Its ability to coordinate bombing sorties would appear to be wholly inadequate, with unknown, missing and undependable spotters on the ground helping identify targets. Modern communication makes it easy if everyone has the same capability.

 

The mission appears to be a comedy of errors for NATO. It was unaware the rebels had tanks. French aircraft, therefore, destroyed several last week along with two Libyan military helicopters, which had been captured; tough luck on their maiden flights.

 

NATO membership was diluted after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. It now includes former Communist Bloc countries and is no longer the powerful force organized in 1949 to oppose the Soviet threat to Western Europe. Without American assets – and now German assets – NATO has no military cohesion to ensure success on any battlefield.

 

Canadian Forces Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard commands NATO’s Libyan actions. General Bouchard has no apparent combat experience. He was trained as a helicopter pilot, but his biography lists only a variety of joint service staff jobs, including one with North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) and another as command of a deployable flight unit.

 

Students at the prestigious U. S. Army War College (USAWC) at Carlisle, PA, and the Command and General Staff College (USACGSC) at Fort Leavenworth, KS, have dissected every aspect of wars to the beginning of recorded history.

 

“Battlefield doctrine” is founded from these deliberations by combat-seasoned officers. U. S. military forces are faithful to the seminal changes developed in the mid-1970s at U. S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, (TRADOC), Fort Monroe, VA.

 

Gen. William E. DePuy, father of our modern approach to war fighting, turned away from the small unit jungle tactics which dominated Southeast Asia combat. His legacy lies visibly in the Abrams Main Battle Tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, Apache and Blackhawk helicopters and Patriot Air Defense System.

 

General DePuy foresaw the challenges of fighting in desert environments like Kuwait, Iraq, and now Afghanistan. A World War II, Korea and Vietnam combat commander, he proved his theories ironically at the sandy, desolate expanse of Fort Irwin, CA. It is the “Desert Training Center” today.

 

Combined arms, he said, is essentially a powerful weapon system.

 

“The interdependence… (and) integration of infantry, artillery, armor, engineers, signal and other supporting elements, is the ultimate expression of Army doctrine. The Navy and Air Force have similar talent in their functional and doctrinal fields.”

 

NATO’s disjointed efforts cannot achieve military success, underscoring General DePuy’s vision. Making matters worse in Libya, it appears we are backing an insurrection force whose elements are being identified as al-Qaeda veterans.

 

Recognized rebel commander Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidit is a graduate of the Guantanamo Bay Resort and Spa. His ties to al-Qaeda are without question. He admits his main battle troops are jihadists, who fought against allied troops in Iraq.

 

It would appear that the Libyan incursion – justified in the name of protecting innocent civilians – is another failed foreign policy adventure for Mr. Obama.

 

Colonel Gadhafi has the ground war advantage with rebels now cowering in alleyways. NATO must quickly overcome the perception that it is a virtual toothless tiger.

 

I’m ashamed to think that may be what Mr. Obama wants.

 



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