Air Power, Blame and Nation-Building

The instant the first Tomahawk or Storm Shadow missile explodes,the back-biting starts; as those countries not actually pulling triggers criticise those that are.

The Arab League wants to hedge its bets in case Gadhafi survives, so now claims it never voted for air strikes, just to stop his air force killing civilians, conveniently forgetting the requirement to knock out government anti-air defences, air bases and command and control centres.  From this moment onwards, every allied attack will cause civilian casualties, “uniting the Libyan people against foreign barbarians”, and I see Putin and Medvedev are playing “good cop, bad cop” with Putin decrying “crusades” whilst Medvedev says it’s all totally OK…

The main thing to avoid is having  western troops overtly on the ground.  One hopes that air power will allow the rebels will be able to keep going and encourage the loyalists to defect. It is however, always a mistake to believe that air power on its own is going to solve the complex political and military problems of this uprising.  Libya’s ever-vacillating tribes will sway towards whichever side they think will emerge in control, and air power is giving a good boost to the rebel cause.

But the real problems will occur on the ground once the civil war is decided. Let’s hope that the allies are working hard on the Nation-Building plan….

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