Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Libyan Mission Creep Update

Yesterday, we learned the Brits and the French were sending advisers (see this post at QP).  Today, we add Italy to the list.  (Much to Munger's amusement.)

Isn't it interesting that the largest contingents are coming from the NATO members that are relatively geographically proximate to the conflict, and so more likely to absorb refugees?  Saideman's emphasis on xenophobia as a motivation for intervention is looking more and more persuasive.

But, listen folks, mission creep stops here.  Nevermind that there was no talk of advisers when this all began.  This time, when government officials from these nations insist that there will be no further involvement, they mean it.

And this is purely a NATO issue now.  The US has washed its hands of it.  ReallySeriously.  And there's not going to be any pressure for the US to get more involved again.  Nope, none.  Not even on Congress' radar.  Besides, "(i)f the Lord Almighty extricated the US out of Nato and dropped it on the planet of Mars so we were no longer participating, it is bizarre to suggest that Nato and the rest of the world lacks the capacity to deal with Libya," according to Joe Biden.

Quite striking that the only way the Vice President of the US can imagine that the US would not take part is if some all-powerful exogenous force transported the US to Mars.  That's how you know not to take anything else he says about the US's attention being focused elsewhere seriously.  Maybe the administration would rather be focused on Iran, Egypt, North Korea, etc.  But when the sh*t really hits the fan in Libya and Nato asks the US for help, is the US really going to say no?


  1. This is a really pessimistic view, but you have to wonder just how much of the motivation for these advisory deployments is to 1) Dissuade Libyan forces from attacking locations where they are known to be operating, or 2) Serve as a pretext for more active involvement in the future after some of them are injured or killed in an attack.

  2. Point 2) strikes me as quite plausible. It's awfully hard to believe that anyone thinks that 10 French advisers here and 10 Italian advisers there is going to dramatically increase the probability that the rebels defeat Qaddafi's forces. These numbers are way too small to accomplish pretty much anything but act as a tripwire.

  3. Though, if that's the case, the interesting question is who that's intended to trick. I'm not sure how unpopular intervention is in France or Italy. I'd love to see some poll numbers.

    I wonder if the goal isn't to get the French, British and Italians pot-committed in order to make a request for US assistance harder to deny more than it is to drum up support back home in those nations.