Obama said Qaddafi must go, then refused to lead the effort to remove him. Qaddafi is still in Libya, though is apparently soon to go, and is now mostly impotent. Obama said the US would “lead from behind” in the effort to oust Qaddafi. So how did Nato fare as a military alliance without America’s leadership? Steven Erlanger, in a must-read article, Libya’s Dark Lessons for Nato in the Sunday Review (September 4, 2011) of the New York Times, concludes, not so well:
There is also the moral question. In Libya, NATO allies ran roughshod over the United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing military means to protect civilians — not intervention on one side of a civil and tribal war. France and Britain dismiss that argument, saying that it is trumped by the defense of Benghazi and the need to remove Colonel Qaddafi from power and that every Qaddafi supporter with a weapon was a threat to civilians, even if they themselves were civilians.
But there is no example of NATO intervening to protect civilian supporters of Colonel Qaddafi from the rebels. And a strong case can be made that the commitment to the “sideshow” of Libya has meant the impossibility of getting Russia and China to act even with economic sanctions on Syria, where the moral argument and the “responsibility to protect” civilians is clearer….
…NATO leaders, in their latest strategic doctrine, tried to find credible threats to Europe from matters like piracy, when the real rationale for the organization vanished along with the Soviet tanks along the Elbe.
As for Afghanistan, the less said, the better. NATO allies are having a long collective buyer’s remorse over their post-9/11 declaration of war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Britain and France, still losing troops and spending more per day there than they did over Libya, can’t wait to leave. Few in Europe, at least, any longer think that the war can be won in any traditional sense, that there will be any glorious ending or even that the impact of this latest Western involvement will be lasting.
Thus the Nato effort was morally bankrupt, a lie from the start, and poorly executed, to boot. The military ineptitude and moral decrepitude of the West grows with each passing year. Nato is utterly irrelevant, as Erlanger says, without the Soviet Union to provide a basis for its existence. That some little rinky-dink dictator in some backwater African tribal agglomeration could hold off Nato’s warplanes for half a year tells all that one needs to know about the future of the alliance, and of the nations comprising it.