Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in the Mediterranean

Now we know that between them, the British and French air forces have flown 2,500 sorties over Libya, compared to 2,000 for the US, can we perhaps have a little less of this stuff? As the Dougs say:

I haven’t seen a single one saying “France is short of precision munitions because they switched contractors last year, and the new guys are having production line issues.” Or “France decided to dramatically cut procurement of these systems because it didn’t fit their five-year strategic vision plan for 2010-15, which didn’t envision this kind of campaign.” Or “France has enough precision munitions, but honestly? Libya’s not actually that high a priority right now — the bombing is kinda half-hearted, because France thinks Qaddafi is going to cave soon anyway.” Or even “France has plenty of precision munitions, but they’re all with forces that got deployed to French Guyana last year as part of a diplomatic-strategic initiative to play carrot-and-stick with Hugo Chavez; they’re on a boat now and will arrive next week.”

No, it’s France lacks precision munitions because /they spend too much money on day care/.

The Guardian’s count up also tells us something about how the war has changed in the last few weeks. It’s also criticised by David Cenciotti on some details. The most interesting point is that the focus has moved to Misrata in a big way – almost as many air missions have been flown against targets around it as have been around Tripoli, and far more than between Benghazi and Sirte.

One of the consequences of this is laid out in this classic report from C.J. Chivers – since the mines were swept up from the port of Misrata, the siege has effectively been lifted and the rebels can use the sea. So can NATO – British and French ships have been firing on shore targets in support of the rebels around the port area, trying to keep it open and gradually expand the rebel zone. (Jean-Dominique Merchet’s blog reports that French observers were on the ground, adjusting the fire.) The latest news is the deployment of attack helicopters aboard the ships Ocean and Tonnerre.

The real problem, though, is that all this is tactics, or at the very best, operational art. It’s still very far from clear what happens if and when the rebels get to Tripoli, or if Gadhafi eventually gives up, or indeed if none of these look like happening within more months.

NATO is quite capable of providing a operational-level response to a military problem. Like the EU, it has a wider sense in which it is possible to use the infrastructure, operating procedures, and habits of cooperation without formally activating all the committees. (Gadhafi declared “Committees Everywhere!” as a principle in his Green Book. Surely no institution can have followed him more faithfully…) That worked, too. In comparison, the EU seems to be struggling to come up with more than day by day tactical responses to its economic problem. Of course, playing for time can help.

But neither of them have anything you could call a strategy. One of the things not having a strategy helps you avoid is thinking about the structural consequences of your tactics. Whatever the next plan-of-the-nanosecond to come out of the ECB, ECOFIN, the Eurogroup, or whatever will be, it’s fair to say that it will be deflationary and it will suit the interests of major exporters in the eurozone. Whatever NATO’s next move in Libya will be, it’s fair to say it will be violent, and it will probably also suit the interests of major exporters in the eurozone. Among others. After all, it appears we’re still training the Saudi National Guard, a force which exists only to repress the internal enemies of the House of Saud, although these days they lend it out.

2 thoughts on “Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in the Mediterranean

  1. “Wait for the correlation of forces to continue shifting in your favor” counts as a strategy, albeit a very passive one.

    Doug M.

  2. Also, looking at the expansion of rebel-controlled territory out of central Misurata —

    http://cencio4.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/2011-05-24_171455.jpg

    — suggests that maybe there is some sort of strategy. Expand the radius of control enough, and you can’t easily get past Misurata. There is a a ring road, which isn’t clearly depicted on the map. It’s still in Loyalist hands. But once it’s cut, suddenly the Loyalist forces over in the east of the country are in trouble. NATO controls the air and the sea, Libya has no rail system, and most of the good roads are either in the narrow coastal corridor or run north-south to points in the interior. So, push hard enough at Misurata, and the whole eastern front might just collapse.

    (And conveniently, the Loyalist shelling of Misurata provides excellent political cover. Who can argue with pushing back the guys who’ve been lobbing shells and rockets into apartment buildings and markets?)

    Doug M.