Entries Tagged as 'NATO'

Can NATO Adapt to Cyber Warfare?

November 29th, 2011 at 2:50 pm 7 Comments

What is the likelihood that NATO would invoke Article Five–NATO’s collective defense clause–in response to a cyber attack? The possibility first entered media discourse back in October 2010 when the German Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on an internal memo in which NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen discussed the use of Article Five in the case of an cyber attack.

Over the past year I have had the opportunity to ask different people within the NATO structure on the matter.

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Don’t Expect Democracy in Libya

August 25th, 2011 at 12:12 pm 19 Comments

From the widespread reaction, you’d think the collapse of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in Libya was a World War II-type victory.

In fact it took six months of U.S., Canadian, British, French and NATO air strikes–most of the target practice with no return fire–before the “rebels”  broke through to Tripoli.

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What Did We Just Win in Libya?

David Frum August 22nd, 2011 at 7:11 am 101 Comments

Back in the Fall of 2001, we all celebrated as local forces backed by NATO airpower ejected the Taliban from control of Afghanistan’s cities. All seemed over but the peacekeeping. The rest of the story, you know.

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Have Qaddafi’s Abuses Been Exaggerated?

June 28th, 2011 at 11:22 am 19 Comments

The International Criminal Court (ICC) decided to issue arrest warrants for Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam, and Abdullah Sanussi, the country’s intelligence chief, on Monday. The three men are wanted on charges of crimes against humanity for their roles in attacks on civilians – including peaceful demonstrators – in Tripoli, Benghazi, Misrata, and other Libyan towns.

While Western governments and the international media have seized the ICC indictment as a much-needed show of moral support for NATO’s controversial / fledgling military campaign, two of the world’s leading human rights organization – Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – have just announced that their independent, on-the-ground investigations found no credible evidence for the claim that Col. Qaddafi’s forces have used mass rape as a weapon of war. The NGO investigation did reveal that the rebels in Benghazi have repeatedly and knowingly made false claims or manufactured evidence – essentially to bolster their PR case against Col. Qaddafi.

According to Donatella Rovera, the Arabic-speaking senior crisis response adviser for Amnesty, who was in Libya for three months after the start of the uprising, “we have not found any evidence or a single victim of rape, or a doctor who knew about somebody being raped”. She stresses this does not prove that mass rape did not occur, but there is no evidence to show that it did. Liesel Gerntholtz, head of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch, which also investigated the charge of mass rape, said: “We have not been able to find evidence.”

According to Amnesty International, the same lack of evidence applies to the widespread allegation that Col. Qaddafi distributed large quantities of Viagra to his troops to send them on a mass rape rampage. A few weeks ago, the French government-sponsored TV5 news channel featured a report about this topic as part of their prime-time evening news coverage. TV5’s unnamed sources said a ship full of Viagra bound for Tripoli had in fact just been interdicted off the coast of Libya. The story was never substantiated.

Furthermore, Amnesty’s Rovera rejected repeated claims made by the Libyan rebels that Col. Qaddafi was using mercenary troops from Central and West Africa. “Those [men] shown to journalists as foreign mercenaries were later quietly released,” said Rovera. “Most were sub-Saharan migrants working in Libya without documents.”

Finally, the Amnesty investigation failed to find any evidence that aircraft or heavy anti-aircraft machine guns were used against protesters and crowds. While the Qaddafi regime certainly had a history of brutally repressing its opponents, there was no question of “genocide” happening in Libya.

While shocking at first glance, these latest revelations by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch should not come as a surprise to anyone. As the Ancient Greek playwright and soldier Aeschylus already noted back in the 5th century B.C.:

“In war, truth is the first casualty”.

Democratically elected Western governments have repeatedly relied on “political misinformation campaigns” – modern shorthand for old-style propaganda – to further their cause, notably to make the case for direct military interventions to fight against alleged mass murderers and human rights violators. During the 1999 Kosovo conflict, Serb forces loyal to President Slobodan Milosevic were accused by Western leaders, among them U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen, of having potentially murdered up to 100,000 military-age men. However, after the war was over, no credible evidence was found to back up this staggering number.

In the wake of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein’s forces were accused of removing premature Kuwaiti babies from incubators, taking the incubators, and leaving the babies “on the cold floor” to die. These shocking charges, first made during now-infamous “Nayirah testimony” given before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in October 1990, were not only widely circulated in the international media but also repeatedly cited by U.S. political leaders (including President George H.W. Bush) as a justification to launch “Operation Desert Storm.” After the 1991 Gulf War was over, it turned out that the false testimony by “Nayirah” (who happened to be the teenage daughter of Saud bin Nasir Al-Sabah, the then-Kuwaiti ambassador in Washington) was part of an elaborate propaganda campaign devised by public relations firm Hill & Knowlton and financed by the Kuwaiti government through a front group called “Citizens for a Free Kuwait”.

It is unfortunate that Western media have a tendency to willingly jump on the propaganda bandwagon, often taking sensationalist allegations at face value – without any efforts aimed at substantiation or verification.

As the much-respected International Crisis Group (ICG) wrote in its June 6th report titled “Making Sense of Libya”:

At the same time, much Western media coverage has from the outset presented a very one-sided view of the logic of events, portraying the protest movement as entirely peaceful and repeatedly suggesting that the regime’s security forces were unaccountably massacring unarmed demonstrators who presented no real security challenge. This version would appear to ignore evidence that the protest movement exhibited a violent aspect from very early on.

While there is no doubt that many and quite probably a large majority of the people mobilized in the early demonstrations were indeed intent on demonstrating peacefully, there is also evidence that, as the regime claimed, the demonstrations were infiltrated by violent elements. Likewise, there are grounds for questioning the more sensational reports that the regime was using its air force to slaughter demonstrators, let alone engaging in anything remotely warranting use of the term “genocide”.

Obama’s Disgraceful Afghan Exit Plan

June 23rd, 2011 at 10:24 am 135 Comments

President Obama’s speech last night on his planned Afghan drawdown was a disgrace.

He began by taking a gratuitous shot at his predecessor, George W. Bush, because Bush invaded Iraq. And he committed himself to withdrawing all 33,000 US “surge” troops by next summer, in the midst of what surely will be a crucial fighting season in Afghanistan.

Of course, there is absolutely no good military reason for this rush to the exit ramps. There is, however, a very good political reason, and that is the 2012 presidential election and the growing clamor, on both the far left and the far right, that Obama “end the war” and “bring the troops home.”

Indeed, never before in American history have the exigencies of war and national security been more subordinated to a president’s perceived political needs than right now — and specifically regarding Afghanistan. In truth, though, Obama has deliberately fostered the political pressures he claims to be responding to. Thus, throughout his presidency, Obama’s said very little about Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Libya, Egypt, Syria or the “Arab Spring”. And this, in turn, has created the perception, both domestically and internationally, that Obama really doesn’t care much about foreign policy and international affairs.

After all, as the president himself said in his December 1, 2009 speech at West Point:

Our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended, because the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.

Obama tonight echoed this isolationist sentiment, even as he insisted that he is no isolationist:

Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource: our people… America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.

Excuse me, but this is intellectually dishonest. Surely Obama knows better. The idea that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have somehow kept us from investing in America is laughable and in defiance of all empirical truth. In reality, as I reported earlier this month here at FrumForum:

Spending on Afghanistan amounts to not even three percent of the $3.7 trillion federal budget, and it accounts for less than one percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). That’s hardly exorbitant. The real reason for the red sea of red ink is not Afghanistan, or military spending more broadly. Instead, the problem is entitlements — spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Indeed, as the Heritage Foundation’s Mackenzie Eaglen notes, over the past decade, necessary defense spending increases are responsible for less than 20 percent of all new spending from 2001 to 2009. This does not even include 2009 stimulus spending totaling $787 billion, with almost no money for defense. Moreover, as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has observed, entitlement spending has doubled since 1970, to 40 percent of the federal budget. Defense spending, meanwhile, has shrunk from about 39 percent to just under 16 percent — even with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The fact is,” reports Contentions’ Amanda Goodman, “defense consumes a smaller share of the national economy today than it did throughout the Cold War.”

Moreover, despite its rumblings of discontent, Congress is not about to cut off funding for Afghanistan. But what many members of Congress would like to hear are routine reassurances and explications of administration policy from the commander in chief. Otherwise, they fear — and rightly so — that Obama’s Afghan policy, and his commitment to that policy, are lacking.

So it’s hardly surprising that support for the war has eroded. It’s eroded because of a conspicuous lack of presidential leadership. Reassert that leadership and watch public support for the war grow.

Equally objectionable is Obama’s pretense to rise above “false choices.” He is neither an “isolationist” nor an “interventionist,” he tells us.

Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security, and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face. Others would have America over-extend ourselves, confronting every evil that can be found abroad.

Obama’s right about the isolationists or non-interventionists: They would, indeed, ignore the very real threats that we face.

But I know of no one who supports a strong and assertive US foreign policy who would have American confront “every evil that can be found abroad.” That’s a gross caricature of our position.

What we do propose is that we confront evil when and where we can, and always when it threatens the American national interest. And, because we recognize that the Jihadist threat in the nuclear age transcends national boundaries and is potentially catastrophic, we rightly insist upon preemptive action to neutralize threats before they can harm our country, our interests and our people. “When threatened,” intoned Obama, “we must respond with force –

…  but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas. When innocents are being slaughtered and global security endangered, we don’t have to choose between standing idly by or acting on our own. Instead, we must rally international action, which we are doing in Libya, where we do not have a single soldier on the ground, but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people and giving them the chance to determine their destiny.

Now, Libya may ultimately turn out well; but if so, it will be in spite of Obama’s “leading from behind,” not because of him. Qaddafi is a third-rate dictator who has lost all popular legitimacy to rule. And he should have been dislodged from power back in March when the Libyan uprising was still in its infancy.

But Obama’s shortsighted refusal to deploy US military power swiftly and preemptively has resulted in a prolonged conflict in which every passing day gives the Islamists more power to organize and to hijack the uprising.

And, as for “not deploy[ing] large armies overseas,” Obama is in denial. In truth, a Libya without Qaddafi surely will need some sort of international stabilization force comprised of American and NATO ground troops.

And Libya is hardly alone. There are other countries — including North Korea, Yemen, Somalia and Lebanon — where the United States may yet have to deploy Soldiers and Marines.

“The idea that we are going to be able to fight future wars without having soldiers on the ground, or [by] just having a few special forces — I think that’s a pipedream,” explained Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis in a June 1, 2009  speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “High-performing small [ground combat] units,” he declared, “are now a national imperative.” Mattis should know. He’s lead troops into battle in both Iraq and Afghanistan and now serves as head of the US Central Command.

In short, then, Obama’s speech was strategically myopic and tactically dangerous. He has effectively ruled out the use of ground troops in other potential trouble spots even as he promises a premature withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. This is, in a word, irresponsible — and it is unbecoming of a commander in chief, especially at a time of war. Political considerations ought to be subordinated to the exigencies of war and national security.

Yet Obama, I regret to say, is doing the exact opposite: He is sacrificing wartime national security requirements on the altar of domestic politics. America deserves better. Our military men and women deserve better.

Rebels’ Aims Still Unclear In Libya

June 20th, 2011 at 12:00 am 8 Comments

A couple of realities need pointing out as Canada extends its air war in Libya for another three months.

The air attacks, initially authorized to “protect” civilians  from Muammar Qaddafi’s homicidal tendencies, have evolved into efforts to destroy Qaddafi — something President Barack Obama and Western leaders have vigorously denied was the purpose.

As it is, close to 13,000 sorties and 4,000 air strikes — roughly 10 percent of them by Canadian CF-18s  — have caused untold numbers of casualties among civilians. Allied air strikes have probably inflicted more civilian casualties than Qaddafi has, in his resistance to being overthrown and/or hanged from a lamp post.

Like the air war against Serbs in Kosovo which was predicted to cause Serbs to surrender within 48 hours but lasted 79 days, the air war against Libya has dragged on until it is no war at all. There’s no resistance. What it is for NATO, Canada, the US, France and Britain, is shooting fish in a barrel. Safe, easy, and maybe even fun. Target practice.

With no air defenses left in Libya, the only danger to pilots is engine failure or pilot error. Cities held by Qaddafi’s dwindling forces become rubble heaps — all to be rebuilt with aid dollars when Qaddafi is no more.

And still there is no certainty who or what these rebellious Libyans are.

Of course, they are presented as freedom fighters, eager for democracy. But that’s nonsense. “Democracy” is a slogan in the Middle East which is rebelling against various dictatorial regimes. They want change, but change to what?

Not one country in which the population is restive, has ever experienced “democracy.” Not Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Yemen, Bahrain, and certainly not Syria or Iran.  Some of the leaders in the Libyan rebellion were once Qaddafi henchmen, doing to Libyan people what Qaddafi is now accused of doing. Not a great omen for democracy, but a sure one for change.

Stripped of hypocrisy, the most effective way to end the war in Libya would be to commit a brigade of British soldiers. Qaddafi’s regular army was always ragtag and mistrusted. Qaddafi may be crazy, but he’s not stupid, and has always been aware that he came to power through a military coup, and was determined the same thing wouldn’t happen to him.

What is Libya’s population? Perhaps 6.5 million. Does anyone think a brigade of trained soldiers supported by the rebels, with full aircraft support, wouldn’t make mince-meat of what’s left of Qaddafi’s defenders?

In some ways, the air war is a chance for pilots to do what they rarely get a chance to do — drop bombs and direct air strikes at real targets. Our CF-18 strike fighters were state of the art when we got them in the 1980s. Now they are past their prime. And the only time they’ve been used in combat was briefly in the first Gulf War against Iraq, then in the phony, fabricated air war against Serbia, orchestrated by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

As their swan song before committing to the new F-35 aircraft (which will never be needed in a fighting role), our CF-18s are lambasting the cartoonish Muammar Qaddafi. The whole scenario is not a very proud moment for our side — and no guarantee that the future will be safer, happier, more peaceful for Libyans.

Gates is Right: NATO
Must be Fixed

June 19th, 2011 at 12:00 am 11 Comments

Robert Gates’ distinguished tenure as Secretary of Defense will come to an end in a couple of weeks. Serving in the Cabinets of two Presidents, buy one from each of our political parties, is noteworthy in itself; my friend and former boss, Norm Mineta was the last one to do so (Clinton and George W. Bush), but we have to go back to the 19th century to find another example of comparable and bi-partisan service.

President Obama is indeed fortunate that Gates will be succeeded by a man who is every bit as smart, honest, tough and candid as is the outgoing Secretary. I have known Leon Panetta for more than 35 years, and I am certain that he, too, will be a superb Secretary of Defense. Americans should be proud (maybe “surprised” is more apt) that individuals of such extraordinary ability and character are willing to take on these challenges — and to endure the political slings and arrows that come with the assignments.

Entirely true to character, Secretary Gates recently gave a valedictory speech to a North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting in which he pointed out that many of our allies are failing to shoulder their fair share of the Alliance’s burdens.

In so doing, Gates ruffled a lot of diplomatic feathers—which he clearly meant to do. However, what he said is hardly new — the topic has been discussed behind closed doors and in social gatherings for years. What made it newsworthy, of course, is that America’s top defense official said it publicly and bluntly.

While Secretary Gates’ immediate audience was composed of European policy-makers, the message he conveyed has significant domestic importance and relevance, as well.

The danger in Europe is that smug politicians will say in not altogether diplomatic language of their own, “Screw you! Who needs NATO? The Cold War is over and the Soviet Union no longer exists!” — never mind the fact that many former Soviet bloc nations are now members of NATO, and they are not entirely sanguine about what kind of neighbor Russia will prove to be as time goes by. And never mind the fact, as well, that had it not been for the Alliance in the 1990s the conflicts and suffering in Bosnia and Kosovo would have turned out even worse than they did, difficult as that might be to imagine.

On this side of the Atlantic, I can imagine — without much effort — uninformed and increasingly isolationist American politicians and pundits reacting to Gates’ warning in a similar vein: “Well screw you, too! Why should we devote precious resources to your defense if you won’t do it for yourselves?”

It is a persuasive argument. Persuasive but horribly wrong.

Granted, it is past time when NATO should re-think its mission and its mode of operation.

The Soviet Union is gone and the prospect of an attack by Russia on her western neighbors, including those once in her orbit, is unlikely (although not impossible). The first and most central reason for NATO’s creation has been mitigated; it is silly to maintain policies and structures that pretend otherwise.

But other real and lethal threats do exist, and they must be countered by coordinated intelligence, diplomatic, economic and military means. We cannot ignore the fact that terrorist activities planned in the Middle and Near East have been carried out in Great Britain, Spain, Germany and the U.S.

NATO’s Article 5, which establishes the principle that an attack on one member country is tantamount to an attack on all member countries, was invoked on September 12, 2001. That determination, on that date, provides enough reason to convince me that we should keep NATO around. That action made the war in Afghanistan an allied effort and not a unilateral one—which is not  insignificant.

Similarly, NATO’s decision to prevent a slaughter of civilians in Libya strikes me as an important reason to keep the Alliance — or something very much like it — in business.

Borrowed from other issues, the admittedly overworked phrase “Mend it, don’t end it” seems very much in order insofar as NATO is concerned, and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic would be well advised to think about the future of the Alliance in those terms.

NATO is somewhat analogous to a “neighborhood watch”. It exists to keep an area safe and free of violence and exploitation, but it works only if everyone buys into the mission philosophically and operationally.

If a few households on a given block opt out, or fail to pay attention, the thugs figure it out and the neighborhood is at risk. If NATO didn’t exist, we’d have to create something much like it. If not, the neighborhood will become an inviting target for the thugs. And they are guys who don’t stop at burglary.

Does Huntsman Face an Uphill Battle?

David Frum June 15th, 2011 at 6:58 pm 35 Comments

Jon Huntsman strategist Jon Weaver, speaking to Esquire magazine on the core GOP problem:

“There’s a simple reason our party is nowhere near being a national governing party …. No one wants to be around a bunch of cranks.”

Libya Air War Has Lasted Longer Than Kosovo Campaign

June 14th, 2011 at 3:32 pm 5 Comments

Andrew Gilligan’s account of the floundering campaign against Qaddafi in the UK Spectator.

For all the ritual incantations about ‘intensified’ attacks and ‘heaviest bombing yet’, the bombing is and always has been relatively light. Across the whole operation, the number of Nato strike sorties — only a proportion of which actually result in airstrikes — has averaged 57 a day, less than half the number in the alliance’s very similar mission in Kosovo, and a mere fraction of what the US and Britain did in Iraq.

The number of strike sorties in the seven days to last Tuesday [ie May 31] was 366, the second lowest in any week since Nato took control of the operation, bringing the daily average down to 52. The claim of intensification is not a total lie — the attacks are becoming more focused — but nor is it true for the whole country. Nato’s military commander in Libya, Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, admitted last week that for all the alliance’s work, ‘there remain a significant amount of forces’ available to the regime.

By the way: the Libya campaign has now lasted longer than the air war in Kosovo.

Republicans Go Wobbly on Libya

June 6th, 2011 at 11:07 am 6 Comments

Donald Rumsfeld famously said that a nation goes to war with the army it has, medical and not necessarily the army it wishes it had. Rumsfeld caught a lot of flak for that statement and rightly so.

When he made that statement, after all, Rumsfeld had been Secretary of Defense for years. And so, if the U.S. Army was not all that he wanted it to be, it was fair to ask: Why not — and what, if anything, had Rumsfeld himself done to remedy the situation?

Still, despite his lack of tact and seeming refusal to accept responsibility, Rumsfeld was essentially correct: Whatever their shortcomings, the U.S. Army specifically, and the U.S. military more generally, protect our nation. And so, if they’re not everything that we’d like them to be with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, well, that’s too damn bad. Wars never go according to script; there are always surprises and disappointments; and yes, people get killed.

I’m reminded of all this by Friday’s vote on the Kucinich resolution, which would have required a precipitous end to U.S. military intervention in Libya. Eighty-seven House Republicans voted with extreme anti-war leftist Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). That’s a lot of Republicans — well over a third of the caucus, in fact.

Many congressional Republicans seem to have voted with Kucinich in order to protest Obama’s dismal lack of leadership re Libya. The president, after all, has said virtually nothing about U.S. and NATO war aims and objectives. He has been “leading from behind,” and not very well or effectively at that.

I share this dismay and concern and wish that Obama were more assertive and communicative as commander in chief: Because especially in the information age, words really do matter; they are an integral part of presidential leadership. Yet Obama seems at a loss for words when it matters most.

Still, we have but one commander in chief, and his name is Barack Obama. Indeed, he is the one that we go to war with. And so, congressional Republicans should be doing everything that they can to buck him up. After all, the need for an assertive and engaged U.S. foreign policy doesn’t end with advent of the campaign season, but rather continues to press forward unabated.

In 2013, a Republican president might well want and need Democratic congressional support for a U.S. military operation or intervention. But what incentive will congressional Democrats have to support a Republican president if they know that their GOP counterparts failed to do the same when their man was in the White House?

John Guardiano blogs at www.ResoluteCon.Com, and you can follow him on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano.