Patrolman Obama – Policeman of the World

Click here for the Original Proposal and 17 replies which received 1,268 views before being transplanted here.

The Original Proposal on 3/21/2011 was to examine Real Politik in relation to the U.S./British/French attack on Libya because that attack was condemned on the grounds that no American “national interest” was involved by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, by senior members of the American media, and by key members of both parties in Congress including Richard Lugar (ranking minority member and former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee).

Although not contesting the fact that the attack on Libya involved no American “national interest,” President Obama and State Secretary Hillary Clinton organized the U.S./British/French attack on Libya in order to avoid a “blood bath” if the rebellion were not successful.

Now, after refusing to support in 2009 the “Green Revolution” in Iran which then failed, the Obama Administration in the person of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta proclaimed on “Face the Nation” on 1/8/2012 that Iran’s developing a nuclear weapon is a “red line” and (after his co-interviewee, U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey, confirmed military planning for a strike against Iran HAS INCLUDED POSITIONING OF MILITARY ASSETS) Leon Panetta stated -- “I think they [Iran] need to know that if they take that step [develop a nuclear weapon], that they’re going to get stopped.”

[The transcript for the “Face the Nation” interview of Panetta and Dempsey is posted below in the “Reference Materials” section.]

Although neither Defense Secretary Panetta nor Joint Chiefs Chairman Dempsey provided any detail on positioning military assets, the media is currently full of stories about how the American aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln is racing across the Indian Ocean to join in the Persian Gulf the carrier Carl Vinson which recently replaced the carrier John Stennis. One carrier in the P.G. is fairly routine while two in the P.G. has only happened during Gulf Wars I and II.

As we have studied in the past, The Gulf State Six (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman) plan to go nuclear immediately after Iran acquires nuclear weapons because, like Charles de Gaulle, they have no faith in the so-called American “nuclear umbrella.”

And as we have studied in the past, 27.7% of worldwide oil production comes from the Middle East and another 20.2% originates “down wind” from the Middle East. Which is why the Middle East has always been viewed as a vital American “national interest.”

It is ironic that the consensus of our foreign-policy cognoscenti is that the U.S./British/French attack on Libya has made it much more difficult to enlist support for doing anything about Iran and its “cat’s paw” Syria.

And it is ironic that our foreign-policy cognoscenti are now waking up to the fact that the U.S./British/French attack on Libya (whose President Qaddafi gave up his nuclear-weapons program immediately after the U.S. launched Gulf War II against Iraq in 2003) appears to have convinced Iran that the only protection against an American attack is to develop nuclear weapons.

Our focus will be “Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy” (Harper Collins - 2009) by Leslie H. Gelb -- available from your local library and from for $11.20 + shipping.

Leslie Gelb crowned his 40-year Pulitzer-Prize winning career with the NY Times as OpEd-Page Editor and Foreign-Relations OpEd Columnist to become President of the Council on Foreign Relations which, inter alia, publishes Foreign Affairs, the premier foreign-policy journal. He had also served as a senior official at the State and Defense Departments and at the Brookings Institution.
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Inferences Re Predators + Misrata + Benghazi

Post by johnkarls »

[Originally posted by johnkarls on Fri Apr 22, 2011 4:30 pm]


Decades ago, it was always fun to contrast what was being reported in the American media and what was being reported in the European media.

When Link TV began carrying a daily half-hour news program entitled “Al Jazeera” and another entitled “Middle East Mosaic” it became fun to contrast news reports of (A) Western media with Islamic media, (B) Arab media with Persian media (aka the media of Iran which is NOT Arab), and (C) Al Jazeera - Arabic (which is included in the Mosaic program with English voice-overs) with Al Jazeera - English (which is a completely separate news division broadcast in English and slanted to British prejudices -- for example, Al Jazeera - English always refers to Libya’s rebel tribes as “pro-democracy forces”).

But with both the American/European contrast decades ago and the modern contrasts, it is necessary to be alert and to think.

For example –


Yesterday (Thurs. April 21), all of the American media reported that President Obama had announced that the same kind of predator drones that we have been using to attack key members of Al Qaeda in the Autonomous Tribal Areas of Pakistan will now also be used in Libya.

Obviously, President Obama would like the American public to assume that the predators will be used to assassinate Muammar El Gaddafi, his sons, and his top lieutenants. And to assume that doing so will bring the Libyan Civil War to a quick close as the Libyan Government crumbles.

[Such assumptions would ignore, of course, the frequent confirmations by Thomas Friedman in his NY Times columns that the Libyan Civil War is a war between tribes which are following a “rule or die” philosophy -- which makes very unlikely the possibility that the governing tribes would submit to the rebel tribes simply because their leaders are assassinated.]

But let’s re-set!!!

It was only 3 years ago that Candidate Obama was ridiculing President Bush for his inability to assassinate Osama bin Laden.

And now President Obama has been at it for more than 2 years with no success.

What makes anyone think that he would be any more successful trying to assassinate Muammar El Gaddafi who, like Osama, has the support of the tribes that surround and protect him??? After all, as a Saudi, Osama is not even a member of the Pakistani tribes that surround and protect him!!!

[For any skeptics of Muammar El Gaddafi’s popular support among the loyalist tribes, the rebel tribes have been complaining for quite some time that Gaddafi did indeed throw open his armories to every member of the loyalist tribes -- which would have been suicidal if he didn’t enjoy their support!!!]

So what should the cynic conclude???

First, we should remember that over the last few weeks, there have been bitter complaints from Libya’s rebel tribes that NATO air strikes have slacked off, once President Obama employed his “Look Ma, No Hands” routine by inserting a NATO Canadian three-star general in the chain-of-command between the overall NATO Commander who is ALWAYS an American and the American-French-Brit attack aircraft.

Second, we should remember that the Washington Post reported on March 22 that the 22-member Arab League which originally recommended solely a “no fly zone” over Libya, was shocked and appalled (A) that the U.N. resolution also included a humanitarian mission in addition to the “no fly zone” and (B) that when Gaddafi complied with the “no fly zone” BY FLYING NO AIRCRAFT AFTER ADOPTION OF THE U.N. RESOLUTION, the Americans-French-Brits seized on the “humanitarian mission” portion of the U.N. Resolution WHICH THE ARAB LEAGUE HAD NEVER APPROVED -- TO ATTACK LIBYAN GOVERNMENT TROOPS, TANKS AND ARTILLERY).

And we should remember that 8 of the 22 members of the Arab League (the Gulf State Six shooting Bahraini citizens, plus Yemen and Syria shooting their own citizens) were actively shooting dissidents and presumably voted for the Libyan “no fly zone” in order to bog down the Americans-French-Brits in Libya so the 8 would be free to shoot dissidents elsewhere.

And that 11 of the others [22 total Arab League members minus the 8, minus Tunisia and Egypt (which had just finished “throwing under the bus” long-time pro-American dictators), and minus Libya itself] presumably voted for the Libyan “no fly zone” as an “insurance policy” that the Americans-French-Brits would be tied down in Libya in case any of the 11 should find it necessary to begin shooting their dissidents.

Lastly, we should remember that Algeria (in addition to Syria) voted AGAINST the Arab League call for the Libyan “no fly zone”!!!

So why is Algeria so significant???

Because it shares a long north-south border with Libya which does not quite reach to the Mediterranean Sea because of Tunisia (aka Carthage in Roman times).

I wrote and posted above an essay on how the Libyan Government could continue to export its oil through Algeria despite the NATO embargo.

And there have been sporadic reports that Algeria is helping the Libyan Government to circumvent the NATO embargo (though none of the reports mentioned oil or, for that matter, whether both exports and imports were involved).


We should be smart enough to infer from “reading between the lines” that modern surface-to-air missiles (presumably Russian since President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov have been taking every opportunity to call NATO’s intervention in the Libyan Civil War an “AMERICAN Medieval Crusade to get control of Libyan oil”) are being supplied to the Libyan Government through Algeria.

That the Russian missiles coming through Algeria are the main reason for the “slack off” in the NATO attacks in recent weeks.

And that President Obama’s announcement yesterday that American predator drones will now be used in Libya is aimed at protecting NATO pilots from being shot down.

Incidentally, the news reports indicated the U.S. is the only NATO country that possesses predator aircraft.

So it would appear that President Obama has been maneuvered by the Brits and the French into the “same old - same old” position of shouldering 100% of the responsibility and 100% of the expense of yet another war against an Arab country.

[Some thoughts for devotees of the Military Channel who are, therefore, military-hardware aficionados who know that we have in our arsenals “weasels” that destroy surface-to-air missiles as soon as their radars “lock” on American aircraft and drones = (A) how much does a “weasel” cost, (B) what is the minimum cost of a radar device (EXCLUDING the surface-to-air missile) that is capable of provoking a “weasel” attack, and (C) how much laughter must there be in the Kremlin over the cost-benefit ratio of “bleeding white” the American military as it sends “weasels” to destroy nothing more than simple radar devices NOT connected to any missiles???!!!]


The American media were full of reports that on March 28 the Libyan Government organized a bus tour of Misrata to convince the Western Media that peace prevailed in Libya’s third-largest city (widely reported to contain about 400 thousand of Libya’s 6.5 million population for North Africa’s smallest ratio, by far, of population to oil production and/or oil reserves).

A minority of the Misrata population comprises one of the Libyan tribes that rebelled against the Libyan Government [the other rebel tribes are far to the east in and around Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city].

The busses were forced to turn back just before reaching the Misrata city center.

Since March 28, we have been bombarded by American media reports of intense fighting in Misrata.

And reports of severe suffering there from lack of food, water and medical services.

And even reports that the Libyan Government is using “cluster bombs” though the Libyan Government denies using “cluster bombs” and even denies that it possesses any “cluster bombs.”


That peace had come to Misrata by March 28.

That the rebel tribe comprising a minority of the Misrata population was inspired by the March 28 bus tour for the Western Media to stage on March 28 a violent demonstration in the Misrata city center for the benefit of the Western Media.

That the March 28 violent demonstration touched off in Misrata what Thomas Friedman has been describing in his various columns analyzing the Libyan Civil War as a death struggle between a few rebel tribes and the Libyan Government.

A cynic would conclude that the rebel tribe that comprises a minority of the Misrata population decided on March 28 to gamble that “throwing themselves over a cliff” would force the same kind of NATO rescue that the rebel tribes far to the east around Benghazi have enjoyed.

And a cynic would conclude that the “cluster bomb” claims in the last few days are a desperate final attempt to inflame Western public opinion when the rebels realized that NATO decided last week NOT to send even a humanitarian mission to Misrata unless the U.N. specifically authorized doing so.

[There were reports that in the wake of the NATO decision, the Brits were going to raise the issue at the U.N. this past Monday April 18 and, presumably, they were rebuffed since there have been no reports whether the Brits succeeded.]


Incidentally, the biggest “stumbling block” in providing a humanitarian mission for the rebel minority in Misrata has been the implacable opposition of the Eastern rebel tribes in and around Benghazi to any foreign military personnel on the ground in Libya (though they have welcomed NATO air strikes).

A cynic would be forced to infer that the rebel tribes in Eastern Libya are solely focused on stealing the oil & gas areas that have been the traditional homeland of the Gaddafi tribe AND THEN BECOMING AN INDEPENDENT COUNTRY, LEAVING THE REST OF LIBYA (INCLUDING MISRATA) AS AN ECONOMIC “BASKET CASE.”

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Pres. Obama Defies War-Powers Act As Well As US Constitution

Post by Pat »

[Originally posted by Pat » Tue May 24, 2011 11:41 am]

Antiwar Senator, War-Powers President –
Like all of his predecessors, this president has realized why the Constitution vested certain powers in the executive branch: Only it can act with dispatch.
By John Yoo – Wall Street Journal Op Ed – March 25, 2011

Reading Liberally Editorial Notes –

Several of the postings in this section have noted that President Barack Obama has followed the tradition of ignoring the requirement in the U.S. Constitution for a Congressional Declaration of War before any hostilities can be initiated. This tradition was begun by President Truman who refused to obtain a Declaration of War for the Korean War for the announced reason that the Korean War was merely a “police action” which did not require a Declaration of War. There has been no Declaration of War since December 1941 at the entrance into World War II of the United States.

In response to the Vietnam War for which President Johnson’s only “fig leaf” was the “Gulf of Tonkin” Congressional Resolution on 8/7/1964, Congress overrode a veto from President Nixon in order to enact in 1973 the War Powers Act (50 U.S. Code Sections 1541-1548). It provides that the President can send U.S. armed forces into foreign combat only pursuant to a Constitutional Act of War or in the case of “a national emergency created by attack on the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” In the latter case, the Act requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of sending our armed forces into combat and prohibits their remaining in combat (except for a 30-day withdrawal period) for more than 60 days without a Constitutional Act of War.

President Obama has ignored the War Powers Act vis-à-vis Libya. However, he is in good company because Presidents of both political parties have routinely ignored the War Powers Act and some have opined that it is an unconstitutional infringement on the President’s “Commander in Chief” powers under the constitution. [Such a constitutional claim is dubious because the constitutional requirement for a Declaration of War is directly “on point”!!!]

However, for the sake of good order, it seemed desirable to post additional information about the applicability of the War Powers Act to our involvement in Libya – even if the only exposition on the topic seems to have been authored by John Yoo, the Boalt (U/Cal Berkeley) Law School Professor and Visiting Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who, as a Justice Department official 2001-2003, authored the so-called Torture Memos.

Incidentally, Attorney General Eric Holder is reported in the following OpEd article as believing that the involvement of U.S. armed forces in the NATO action in Libya is excused from compliance with the Constitutional Requirement for a Declaration of War because the Libyan War is a “small war.”

Professor Yoo ridicules that idea on the basis that the Constitution makes no distinction between small wars and large wars. However, Professor Yoo should have provided us with his opinion whether the “armed conflict” involving U.S. troops at the compound of Osama bin Laden wasn’t therefore a “small war” and whether Professor Yoo wouldn’t, under his presumed analysis, have required a Congressional Declaration of War whose publicity would have defeated the attempt to capture/kill Osama.

One small matter deserves note. The War Powers Act, whether or not constitutional, requires a Constitutional Declaration of War unless there is “a national emergency created by attack on the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” Two comments are in order =

(1) In addition to Al Qaeda attacks on U.S. armed forces such as the USS Cole, there have also been Al Qaeda attacks on U.S. Embassies such as our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and U.S. EMBASSIES, UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW, ARE U.S. TERRITORY.

(2) However, it is also useful to ponder whether the attack on the USS Cole or the US Embassies created “a national emergency” as required by the War Powers Act.


Antiwar Senator, War-Powers President –
Like all of his predecessors, this president has realized why the Constitution vested certain powers in the executive branch: Only it can act with dispatch.
By John Yoo – Wall Street Journal Op Ed – March 25, 2011

President Barack Obama has again flip-flopped on national security—and we can all be grateful. Having kept Guantanamo Bay open, resumed military commission trials for terrorists, and expanded the use of drones, the president has now ordered the U.S. military into action without Congress's blessing.

Imagine the uproar if President Bush had unilaterally launched air attacks against Libya's Moammar Gadhafi. But since it's Mr. Obama's finger on the trigger, Democratic leaders in Congress have kept quiet—demonstrating that their opposition to presidential power during the Bush years was political, not principled.

Mr. Obama's exercise of war powers in Libya is firmly in the tradition of American foreign policy. Throughout our history, neither presidents nor Congress have acted under the belief that the Constitution requires a declaration of war before the U.S. can conduct military hostilities abroad. We have used force abroad more than 100 times but declared war in only five cases: the War of 1812, the Mexican-American and Spanish-American Wars, and World Wars I and II.

Without any approval from Congress, presidents have sent forces to battle Indians, Barbary Pirates and Russian revolutionaries, to fight North Korean and Chinese Communists in Korea, to engineer regime changes in South and Central America, and to prevent human rights disasters in the Balkans. Other conflicts, such as the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War, received legislative "authorization" but not declarations of war.

Since Vietnam, however, antiwar Democrats have sought to replace the Constitution's reliance on swift presidential action in war with a radically different system appropriate for peacetime: Congress makes policy, the president implements it. In 1973, they passed the War Powers Resolution to require congressional permission for any military intervention abroad, but no president has accepted the law's constitutionality.

President George W. Bush's campaign against terror upped the stakes in this contest. Opening the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, establishing special military courts for terrorist trials, ordering tough interrogation of al Qaeda leaders, and conducting warrantless wiretaps of electronic communications—all without congressional approval—fed the left-wing narrative of an "imperial presidency." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other prominent Democrats regularly attacked Mr. Bush for acting "above the law" and "cutting out Congress." Then-Sen. Joe Biden even opposed the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito because he would not agree that Mr. Bush would need congressional permission to attack Iran.

Mr. Obama once agreed with his Democratic colleagues, saying in 2007 that "The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." Fast forward four years: Last Monday, Mr. Obama notified Congress that he ordered military action in Libya "pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive."

For once, Mr. Obama has the Constitution about right. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 74, "The direction of war implies the direction of the common strength, and the power of directing and employing the common strength forms a usual and essential part in the definition of the executive authority." Presidents should conduct war, he wrote, because they could act with "decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch." In perhaps his most famous words, Hamilton wrote that "Energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government. . . . It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks."

The truth is that Mr. Bush's case for constitutional authority far outstrips Mr. Obama's. In 2001 and 2002, Mr. Bush won legislative approval for both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars even though he didn't need it.

A few usual suspects have piped up against Mr. Obama's switch. Rep. Dennis Kucinich is talking impeachment again, and fellow isolationist Rep. Ron Paul has suggested that Mr. Obama is acting "outside the Constitution." A few moderates, such as Sens. Richard Lugar and Jim Webb, have called for a congressional debate over a declaration of war—an idea supported by conservative pundit George Will. But don't expect Sen. Reid or former Speaker Nancy Pelosi to introduce legislation blocking the war in Libya. Don't wait for Mr. Biden to thunder forth about saving the Constitution from the president. They are just as silent now as they were when President Bill Clinton bombed Serbia in 1999 without congressional approval.

Real opposition comes from a different quarter: young congressional Republicans like Jason Chaffetz of Utah or Justin Amash of Michigan. Their praiseworthy opposition to the growth of federal powers at home misleads them to resist Washington's indispensable role abroad. They mistakenly read the 18th-century constitutional text through a modern lens—for example, understanding "declare war" to mean "start war." When the Constitution was written, a declaration of war served diplomatic notice about a change in legal relations between nations. It had little to do with launching hostilities. In the century before the Constitution, for example, Great Britain fought numerous major conflicts but declared war only once beforehand.

Our Constitution sets out specific procedures for passing laws, appointing officers, and making treaties. There are none for waging war. The Constitution declares that states shall not "engage" in war "without the consent of Congress" unless "actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay"—exactly the limits desired by antiwar critics, complete with an exception for self-defense. But even these limits are absent when it comes to war waged by the president. The Framers wanted Congress and the president to struggle over war through the political process, not the courts.

Congress is too fractured, slow and inflexible to manage war. Its loose, decentralized structure would paralyze American policy while foreign threats loom. The Framers understood that Congress's real power would lie in the purse. During the 1788 Virginia ratifying convention, Patrick Henry attacked the Constitution for failing to limit presidential militarism. James Madison replied: "The sword is in the hands of the British king; the purse is in the hands of the Parliament. It is so in America, as far as any analogy can exist."

If Congress opposes action, it can reduce funding for the military, eliminate units, or freeze supplies. Congress ended U.S. involvement in Vietnam by cutting off funds for the war. Our Constitution has succeeded because it favors swift presidential action in war, later checked by Congress's funding power.

Unfortunately, Mr. Obama's desire to work through the United Nations has only substituted one source of delay and unaccountability for another. While he wasted weeks negotiating with the Arab League, NATO allies and finally the U.N. Security Council to win the international approval he so desperately seeks, Moammar Gadhafi reversed his battlefield losses and drove the rebels into one last holdout in Benghazi. The Constitution centralized the management of war in the president precisely to avoid the delays and mistakes of decision-making by committee. While Mr. Obama has done well to part ways with antiwar Democrats, he has shown that he still has to learn the ways of the executive.

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Libya Post-Mortem by NY Times' Paris Bureau Chief

Post by Pat »

[Originally posted by Pat » Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:01 am]

New York Times – 9/5/2011 – Sunday Review Opinion Pages – News Analysis

Libya’s Dark Lesson For NATO
By Steven Erlanger – NY Times’ Paris Bureau Chief

THE war in Libya may be one of those quietly telling moments in the history of more important nations. For the first time, the United States has taken a secondary role — “leading from behind,” if “leading” is even the right word — in a war prosecuted by the NATO alliance and driven by Britain and France, the two strongest military powers in Europe.

But oh what a war! More than six budget-busting months against one of the weakest militaries in the world, with shortages of planes, weapons and ammunition that were patched over by the pretense that NATO was acting simply to “protect civilians,” when it was clear to everyone that the alliance was intervening on one side of a civil war. All resemblances to the Kosovo war, of course, are a priori inadmissible. That was the war — 78 days of bombing Serbia and thousands dead before Slobodan Milosevic finally capitulated — when NATO said: “Such a success, never again!” Yet here we are — with the “responsibility to protect” the new mantra, replacing Kosovo’s “humanitarian intervention.” Both are debatable, given the failure to intervene in the separatist Russian republic of Chechnya then and Syria, Bahrain or Yemen now.

Libya has been a war in which some of the Atlantic alliance’s mightiest members did not participate, or did not participate with combat aircraft, like Spain and Turkey. It has been a war where the Danes and Norwegians did an extraordinary number of the combat sorties, given their size. Their planes and pilots became exhausted, as the French finally pulled back their sole nuclear-powered aircraft carrier for overdue repairs and Italy withdrew its aircraft carrier to save money.

Only eight of the 28 allies engaged in combat, and most ran out of ammunition, having to buy, at cost, ammunition stockpiled by the United States. Germany refused to take part, even in setting up a no-fly zone.

Although Washington took a back seat in the war, which the Obama administration looked at skeptically from the start, the United States still ran the initial stages, in particular the destruction of Libya’s air defenses, making it safe for its NATO colleagues to fly. The United States then provided intelligence, refueling and more precision bombing than Paris or London want to acknowledge. Inevitably, then, NATO air power and technology, combined with British, French and Qatari “trainers” working “secretly” with the rebels on the ground, have defeated the forces, some of them mercenary, of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

The question, however, is whether European members of NATO will ever decide to embark on such an adventure again.

Either Europeans will develop the security and defense identity they have advertised for so long, so Europe can have its own credible voice in a world not only run by soft power, or given the expense and difficulties of defeating even Libya, they will simply stop trying. The jury is out, but the verdict is important.

Some defense experts, like Tomas Valasek of the London-based Center for European Reform, suggest that Washington’s diplomacy worked, in that during the Libyan conflict “the allies established a new division of labor for NATO operations on Europe’s borders, which should be encouraged.”

Possibly. And just possibly, given the cost and strain of the Libyan operation, combined with the vital necessity to cut budget deficits at home to save both the euro zone and themselves, even the eight European nations that fought will decide that a real European security and defense identity is too expensive and that their already shrinking defense budgets will continue to shrink past the point of utility — at least to Washington. After all, the European Union itself played no role at all in the war.

François Heisbourg, a French defense analyst with the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris, said that the decisions made in Washington to “lead from behind” and in Berlin not to participate at all will have “major strategic consequences for both NATO and the European Union.”

The lack of a sustained American “shock and awe” campaign probably left more of Libya’s infrastructure intact for the new government, he noted. But less happily, he said, “if ‘leading from behind’ becomes the rule rather than the exception” — which he regards as likely given United States budget cuts — “then European force planners will have to invest” in air-defense suppression and more close-air support.

How likely, after all, is that? And if France, Britain and others do invest more in those areas, they will have to cut in others and will be less likely to engage in over-the-horizon expeditions like the war in Afghanistan.

So Libya may be a dark model for NATO’s future: internal coalitions of the willing, hemmed in by conditions and national “caveats,” running out of ammunition and targets, with inadequate means to achieve stated political goals.

The economic crisis has only exacerbated Europe’s unwillingness to live up to its grand ambitions to play a global role in foreign and defense matters. The biting complaints of Robert Gates, the former United States defense secretary, about the fading of Europe and a “dim if not dismal future” for an increasingly “irrelevant” alliance, were only an echo, if said more harshly, of similar speeches that many NATO secretaries general have made before him.

In February, at the Munich Security Conference, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen of NATO ominously noted that in the last two years alone European defense spending had shrunk by $45 billion — the equivalent of Germany’s entire military budget. Only France, Britain and Greece (which can’t afford it), are spending the agreed 2 percent of G.D.P. on defense, and Britain is now cutting sharply. If those trends continue, Mr. Rasmussen said, “we risk a divided Europe” and “a Europe increasingly adrift from the United States.” He noted the rise of China and the impatience of Washington: “If Europe becomes unable to make an appropriate contribution to global security, then the United States might look elsewhere for reliable defense partners.”

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.

The Atlantic alliance, like the European Union, is suffering from a predictable post-Soviet hangover, combined with the strains of rapid expansion to countries that have sharply divergent views about Moscow, Ukraine, Georgia, the Middle East and the real threats to Europe. 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.

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