Posted by: CS | August 12, 2011

NATO Mission Failure in Libya

By Thierry Meyssan

The following is a rough translation of the French language article by Thierry Meyssan, that appears on

Meyssan explains the failure of NATO’s strategy to overthrow the Gaddafi regime. He argues that if the mission is continued, NATO’s strategy will continue to be ineffectual and that, if Gaddafi is killed, the war will likely spread, not only across North Africa, but also into Southern Europe.

Despite the bleak picture, the project will not be abandoned. In Iraq we saw a “cakewalk” turn into a long drawn out and bloody war, which has yet to give way to peace. In Libya, NATO will not be deterred by the spilling of blood. NATO is the most powerfully armed military camp the world has ever seen. Unless NATO itself collapses due to circumstances unforeseen, it will continue blundering from one war crime to the next, bombing and killing until Libya submits or there are no more Libyans left to offer submission.

After 150 days of bombing, NATO has razed many facilities in Libya, but has achieved no significant military result. This was due to the lack of strategic planning. NATO applied in Libya methods designed for other environments, but which proved useless in this particular case. The greatest military alliance in history, formed to confront the USSR, dreamed of becoming the world’s policeman, but the transformation has failed.

NATO intervened in Libya with a UN mandate to protect civilians, but it sought an objective beyond the UN mandate, which was to change the political regime of the country.

After almost 150 days of war, NATO has failed to undermine Libya’s institutions. Given the disparity of forces, we must admit the military failure and question the strategy.

The Alliance started from a faulty analysis that the eastern and southern tribes hostile to Muammar Gaddafi would easily take Tripoli with the aid of air support. Instead, however, the tribes viewed the bombing as a foreign aggression and rallied to the “Brother Leader” to repel the invasion of crusaders.

As a result, the Alliance could count on only two ground components: the 3000 trained soldiers that General Younes Abdel Fatah had brought with him when he defected from Gaddafi, and the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of fighters from the Arab networks of Saudi Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, known as the “Al Qaeda nebula.”

After the killing, in a particularly atrocious way, of General Younes by jihadists of Al Qaeda, rebel forces have collapsed: Younes’ soldiers rallyied to Colonel Gaddafi to fight Al Qaeda and avenge their leader. Operational command of rebel forces has devolved to Haftar Khalifa, i.e., the special forces of the CIA, which does not hesitate to recruit anyone to fight for the rebel cause, including child soldiers.

This improvised army, announces every other day a victory, but in fact suffers only defeats. Each battle scenario is the same: NATO bombs the population, forcing them to flee their homes. The locality is immediately besieged by rebel forces who announce that they have gained ground. Only then does the battle begin with the Libyan army moving into the city and massacring the rebels. Then the population moves back into the partially destroyed town.

The Atlantic Alliance could interpret U.N. Resolution 1973 broadly and consider that although the text explicitly prohibit the deployment of foreign troops on the ground, such a deployment is legitimate if it is intended to “protect civilians”.

NATO would then face a population armed to the teeth and ready to do battle. The Libyan leader Gaddafi has indeed delivered a Kalashnikov and ammunition to every adult male. While the Libyan population lacks organization compared with that of NATO, it has a clear numerical superiority, and is prepared to accept heavy losses, whereas NATO troops are unwilling to die for Tripoli.

At the outset, strategists in Washington felt that this asymmetry was of no important because NATO has complete control of the air.

This doctrine, unchallenged in the United States, has been openly challenged by European members of NATO. Belief in the superiority of air power arose with General Giulio Douhet based on the outcome of the Italo-Ottoman War, that is to say the Libyan war of 1911. At the time, the Italians bombed Tripoli, the first aerial bombardment in history. Frightened by this new weapon, the Ottoman Empire ceded without a fight. Italian troops took possession of Tripoli without firing a shot, which convinced Douhet that it was possible to win a war solely with air power. This analysis is incorrect because it confuses the reaction to aerial bombardment of Libya’s Ottoman rulers with the reaction of Libyans. The Libyan response to Italian aggression occurred later with the Libyan uprising.

Exactly a century later, the same conceptual error about the significance of air power has been repeated. To control the country, NATO would have to in send ground troops and, like the Italians in the years 1912-14, kill more than half of the population of Tripoli, which is not exactly the purpose of Resolution 1973.

To date, the Atlantic Alliance has designed its bombing campaign according to the doctrine of Douhet and improvements that have been made since, including the theory of the five circles of John A. Warden III, who gained experienced in Iraq. The idea is that the targets should not be chosen to destroy the enemy armed forces, but to paralyze the command centers, including cutting the means of transmission and circulation.

NATO has discovered that Libya is ruled by people’s congresses and Muammar Gaddafi has reduced most of the administration functions to their simplest expression. There are no major departments sovereign, just small offices. The ministers are not leading figures, but team leaders who surround themselves with skilled professionals. The power is diluted and elusive. What was a headache for businessmen who came to Libya — finding the right people — has become a puzzle to NATO strategists — who should they target? Five months of bombing have failed to find the answer.

The Atlantic Alliance is fixated on Muammar Gaddafi. Is he not the Father of the Nation? Would not eliminating him, destroy the principle of authority in Libyan society, resulting in instant Iraqisation, which would plunge the country into chaos? But, unlike Iraq after the removal of Saddam, tribal structure and the horizontal structures of power would remain. Even when torn by internal conflicts, the Libyan people remain an organic entity defiant of the foreign invasion. Not only would no military problem be solved by the removal of Gaddafi, but the theater of war would be cease to be delimited: the war would inevitably spill across North Africa and into southern Europe. Killing Gaddafi could be NATO’s worst mistake.

In the absence of an effective strategy, the Alliance has fallen back on the old habits of the American military culture, those of the Korean War and Vietnam: making life impossible for the population so as to dissociate it from the leadership. Since the beginning of Ramadan, NATO has strengthened the naval blockade to cut off the supply of gasoline and food, it has bombed power plants, water supply systems, agricultural cooperatives, small fishing ports and public meeting halls.

In short, the Alliance has done exactly the opposite of what it was mandated to do by the Security Council and the various parliaments of the Member States: instead of protecting the civilian population against a tyrant, NATO terrorizes civilians to compel them to rebel against The leader they support.

This strategy is expected to last until the end of Ramadan, by which time there will remain only three weeks for the Alliance to achieve significant victory before the bell rings on September 19, and the United Nations General Assembly meets. It could seek clarification on the current operation, note the failure of the Security Council to restore peace, and enforce its own recommendations.

For the resumption of fighting on the ground in early September, NATO has supplied weapon to the rebels in Misrata and will clear the road for the advance on Zlitan. France has refused to supply additional weapons to the rebels, but Qatar has supplied a plane to deliver weapons, despite the UN embargo. On the night of August 8 to 9, the Alliance cleared Majer Hill that could serve as an outpost in the defense of Zlitan. It also bombed farms and tents that housed twenty displaced families, killing 85 people including 33 children.


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