First the Libyan campaign illustrated less the viability of enabling coalitions

First the libyan campaign illustrated less the

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First, the Libyan campaign illustrated less the viability of “enabling” coalitions of the willing – a concept that Obama had previously repudiated in favor of renewing established alliances – than the graphic limits of such an approach. Only nine NATO nations deployed aircraft to attack ground targets. Turkey and Spain simply refused to attack ground targets, key NATO members such as Germany and Poland offered nothing at all to the operation, while at one stage France and the UK were perilously close to running out of munitions. American assistance remained crucial. As the European contribution to ISAF – one more symbolic of transatlantic comity than the outcome of a genuine sense of shared threat – became even more limited in the face of the US troop surge and the Afghan operation’s increasing unpopularity, Secretary Gates had lamented Europe’s “demilitarization” as “an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace,” in a speech at the National Defense University in February 2010. 41 In a valedictory address in June 2011, a clearly exasperated Gates made clear that a NATO “alliance” where the US contribution had actually increased from 50 percent of total defense spending in 2001 to 75 percent in 2011 was profoundly imbalanced. 42 While the assistance of Qatar and the UAE was crucial to preparing the rebels’ armed forces, the mission represented not a coherent alliance operation but a quintessential “coalition of the willing.” Far from confirming the “enabling” role of the US, it reconfirmed the operational and diplomatic strains in the transatlantic alliance – Europe lacking both the will and the means to carry out a limited mission, and American technical and logistical resources remaining central to NATO’s success. Second, as in the Clinton interventions of the 1990s – and unlike the Bush ones of the 2000s – US participation occurred without the authorization of the US Congress. In a series of votes, the administration failed to secure approval from Congress, with the opposition to the operation receiving bipartisan backing. 43 As such, Libya indicated less a model for Washington’s post-American diplomatic and military blueprint than confirmation of a disturbingly inward-looking, uncertain and war-weary nation. The administration’s mixed messages and indecision about Libya’s revolution in March confused allies as well as powers hostile to intervention, such as China and Russia. The legal mismatch between the goal of removing Qaddafi and the narrower mandate of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 led to bipartisan condemnation of the administration’s actions by Congress. The administration decision to limit its involvement several weeks into the conflict caused cash-strapped European governments to run short on ammunition and scramble to effectively deploy their limited military resources. A more robust use of American force during this initial period, including greater use of ground-attack aircraft such as AC-130s and A-10s, could have crippled
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