2011 March


Libya Round-Up Wednesday March 23

by CDS Editors

The Center for Defense Studies continues to compile major opinion pieces on the Libyan crisis:

AEI’s John Bolton discusses the lessons learned from the Obama administration’s mismanagement of the Libyan crisis.

Max Boot urges the Obama administration to prepare for the aftermath of Qaddafi’s fall.

Fouad Ajami compares Libya to Bosnia: “Benghazi would have been the president’s Srebrenica: he had no choice but to act.”

Stephen Carter observes the absence of military capacity for an Odyssey Dawn-scale operation outside of the United States.

Dan Twining assesses the state of the international order after the UNSC debate on Libya.

Jennifer Rubin examines President Obama’s presentation of American involvement in Libya. 

(flickr/U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman)

Command & Control in Libya

by CDS Editors

AEI’s John Bolton discusses the recent announcement that a “political steering committee” will oversee the no-fly zone in Libya:


Libya Round-Up Tuesday March 22

by CDS Editors

The Center for Defense Studies has compiled a list of major articles from this morning and yesterday afternoon on the Libyan crisis, its military complexion and its geopolitical implications.

CDS Contributor Dan Blumenthal writes that the Libyan crisis affirms American pre-eminence.

Steven Metz discusses the prospect of an extended insurgency in Libya.

Max Boot broaches the challenges of a post-Gadhafi Libya.

Jennifer Rubin examines President Obama’s leadership of the Libyan mission.

Robert Haddick sorts through Colonel Gadhafi’s military options as the no-fly zone is established.

(U.S. Navy photo/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)

Libya: The Price of Multilateralism

by CDS Editors

See Jennifer Rubin’s Washington Post blog entry this afternoon on the Obama administration’s shaky objectives in Libya. Rubin takes issue with multilateralism that comes at the cost of a clear explanation to Americans about the goals of military action abroad. Commentary from CDS’ Tom Donnelly appears in Rubin’s post.

(U.S. Navy photo/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman)

Libya Round-Up

by CDS Editors

AEI’s Center for Defense Studies will be compiling a list of articles chronicling US military involvement in Libya daily as the crisis continues to unfold. Here are major articles from this morning and the past weekend:

CDS’ Gary Schmitt and Tom Donnelly discuss the Libyan crisis’ lessons on the growing importance of hard power.

Walter Russell Mead explores the similarities in foreign policy between the Obama and George W. Bush administrations.

Jennifer Rubin discusses the place of executive leadership in wartime.

Max Boot makes the case for Gaddhafi’s removal.

Robert Haddick foresees a “quagmire” in Libya in his Foreign Policy blog.

Niall Ferguson discusses the strategic failings of the Obama administration.

Robert Danin calls for more precise objectives in Libya.

(US Navy photo/Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Pappas)

No Substitute for Power

by Gary Schmitt and Tom Donnelly

The crisis in Libya provides a useful reminder that the world’s demand for American power is rising. This is clearly the case in the Muslim world, which was in turmoil long before the current “Arab spring.” As Senator Richard Lugar recently fretted, “Libya might not be the last of these cases.” Just so.

No one can predict with any precision when or where the “next case” might be. But it is folly to presume—and for our government to plan—that there won’t be further conflicts, that revolutionary change will be, as the president has put it, “organic,” that what happens overseas stays overseas.

The Obama administration came to power believing that it could better manage the national security “portfolio” by divesting the United States of “underperforming” assets—that is, Bush’s wars—in the greater Middle East. The Obama administration wanted to reinvest the proceeds at home, and advance a more limited foreign policy. Defense Secretary Robert Gates bluntly summarized the argument at West Point last month: “Any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.” No surprise that Gates has been leery of the intervention in Libya.

Yet Obama has now started, not just inherited, a Middle East war. Perhaps he can take the obvious and logical step and prepare for the likelihood of next cases. As Secretary Gates also said to the cadets, “When it comes to predicting the nature and location of our next military engagements, since Vietnam, our record is perfect: We have never once gotten it right.”

To get it right, first recognize the primacy of military power in international politics. In the present crisis, the Obama administration, though slow off the mark, did in fact achieve about as much as diplomacy could be expected to achieve. Getting a useful U.N. resolution at all beat the odds. The administration has also created a credible international coalition. The proof of the effort, however, will be in the willingness and ability to use force to remove Muammar Qaddafi from power.

As these recent events attest, there is no substitute for having sufficient U.S. military forces to be able to conduct multiple campaigns in the region while continuing to operate throughout the world. It’s not clear we have this capability now. After all, it appeared the Bush administration could only adequately fight one of its wars at a time.

And what we do have, we are in the process of cutting. What this will leave us with is simply not enough. The House Armed Services Committee’s March 18 “Views and Estimates” letter put it plainly to Rep. Paul Ryan: “This [House Budget] committee should not jeopardize the security of the nation by accepting across-the-board cuts to national defense without regard to the inherent strategic risks.”

To quote from the bipartisan defense commission, headed by former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and former Defense Secretary William Perry: “As the last 20 years have shown, America does not have the option of abandoning a leadership role in support of its national interests. . . . Failure to anticipate and manage the conflicts that threaten those interests . . . will not make those conflicts go away. . . . It will simply lead to an increasingly unstable and unfriendly global climate and, eventually, to conflicts America cannot ignore.”

In short, the world hasn’t stopped, and we can’t get off. To the contrary: Across the Middle East, the pace of events is accelerating. Our president now understands we have no choice but to become more deeply involved. It’s the right and necessary thing to do. Which is why cutting defense is the last thing America should now be doing.

Cross-posted from the Weekly Standard Magazine.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)

An End to Obama’s Dithering?

by CDS Editors

See Jennifer Rubin’s Washington Post blog entry today on the subject of President Obama’s indecision over the course of the Libyan crisis. While welcoming the Obama administration’s final determination, Rubin raises issue with its handling of the case. Commentary from CDS’ Tom Donnelly appears in the piece as well.

(flickr/photo by Nathan Rupert)

Petraeus and Afghanistan

by CDS Editors

See Max Boot’s post on Commentary Magazine’s site on General David Petraeus’ Senate Armed Services Committee testimony. Boot applauds Petraeus’ grounded testimony, calls attention to important advancements in Afghanistan and outlines two major challenges ahead: 1) enlisting more robust and consistent Pakistani support 2) addressing corruption in the Afghan government.

(flickr/US Army photo by Spc. Joshua Grenier)

Petraeus’ Afghanistan Testimony

by Richard Cleary

See ISAF Commander David Petraeus’ prepared statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee here. Petraeus discusses progress made in Fall 2010 and early 2011 in halting Taliban momentum and regaining control of key areas, including districts west of the onetime Taliban stronghold Kandahar City. With the proper “inputs” in place, substantial gains have been made in creating and expanding “security bubbles” and training Afghan National Security Forces. Petraeus also signaled that President Hamid Karzai will announce the districts where a transition from ISAF to Afghan forces is set to take place this spring. The General also discussed President Karzai’s Afghan Local Police Initiative, as well as the success of joint NATO-Afghan operations in targeting insurgent leaders.

Looking forward, Petraeus concedes that progress in Afghanistan remains “fragile and reversible,” and emphasizes the need for increased civilian aid to complement and support military efforts. Still, the General closes by predicting that ISAF and Afghan forces will be able to sustain their momentum in the face of difficult fighting this Spring.

(flickr/Isaf media)