Information Dissemination is worried that the
norsouthern shore of the Mediterranean is now “ungoverned territory”. This is surely odd – Egypt and Tunisia have entirely functional governments. Surely it’s Libya that’s gone anarchic? It does tell you something about the rules-of-the-road some people have internalised. If it’s not our dictator it doesn’t count as government, and the answer is a US carrier group.
But it’s not as if the Europeans weren’t active, even though there is hardly a foreign secretary on the continent who isn’t dripping with egg on their faces. NATO’s headquarters in Naples, the former AFSOUTH, is the coordinating authority for Operation Atalanta, but it is also responsible for the NATO Response Force, a sizeable fleet led by a Spanish admiral. An impressive European naval force is already in the area, including two of Italy’s San Giorgio-class assault ships, with the French Mistral due to pass close by on her way to the Indian Ocean – you wouldn’t bet on her making the voyage as planned. Two of Spain’s powerful Galicia-class LPDs are with the NRF and may join at any time.
The danger, of course, is what Adam Elkus describes as the temptation of “discrete military operations”, often prompted by moral shame. (There’s plenty of that to go around.) We already seem to be seeing the effects of Clausewitz’s notion of friction
– the Dutch Lynx crew and, if rumours are accurate, an SAS patrol, have got into trouble, although the problem for the British seems to be diplomatic rather than anything else. It does, however, point out why these operations shouldn’t be lightly undertaken, no matter how long you’ve been planning.
Meanwhile, in order to help keep things in perspective, Libya was reported to be on the brink of civil war over how to execute Gaddafi.