“What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone. And what we want is the protection of civilians and not the shelling of more civilians.”
-- Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League, condemning the U.S.-led air assault on Libya
A second day of U.S. air strikes on Libyan positions came amid deepening anxieties among coalition partners about the means and objectives of the effort there.
But the coalition is currently suffering from a lack of direction and waning support.
Turkey blocked a bid to have NATO take over command of the operation, called Odyssey Dawn. The Arab League, which helped spur a sudden shift in the Obama administration late last week by calling for a no-fly zone, is now expressing misgivings about the size and ferocity of the effort.
The Russians and Chinese, who withheld a Security Council veto of a French-British-U.S. resolution allowing any military steps short of ground forces, are already tut-tutting the shock-and-aweish nature of the effort so far.
Much has been written about the conflict between the State Department and the Pentagon in the run up to the attacks on Libya – State reportedly favored action while the Pentagon publicly and privately warned of the cost and consequences of such a mission.
One retired general suggested to Power Play that while Hillary Clinton’s agency may have won the debate about intervention “it’s still up to the war fighters to fight wars.” The general’s “informed guess” was that the Pentagon was not interested in having weaker members of the coalition dictate strategy and insisted instead on overwhelming force if U.S. forces were to be put at risk.
“There’s a lot of anxiety from some people who see this as Iraq all over again.”
-- House Democratic aide to Power Play discussing Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya
There is bipartisan grumbling on Capitol Hill that President Obama, despite his denunciations of his predecessor for failing to further consult with Congress over invading Iraq, told lawmakers about his Libya attack plans rather than seeking approval or advice in advance.
While most Republicans say they would have given authority for the air strikes undertaken so far, there is growing concern on the right that the military, already obligated to fighting two wars, will be further stretched if the situation in Libya devolves. House Speaker John Boehner says he wants to know exactly what the mission is before the mission changes again.
There is deepening anxiety among Democrats though. While liberals generally appreciate the efforts to obtain U.N. blessing for the operation, there is unhappiness that Obama did less to consult with Congress about his Libyan attack than President George W. Bush did in advance of his invasion of Iraq.
Aw, snap! Barry didn't consult enough with Congress. Gee, could it be said that Dems in congress are missing GWB now? Guess Barry really does see our military as subservient to the whims of the UN. Hmmm.
But wait, there is more grumbling abroad:
cracks started to show Monday in the military coalition hastily assembled to take action on Libya as the Arab League and some EU countries wavered.
Criticism of the operation came swiftly after French jets took to the skies on Saturday to launch the first air strikes on Libyan targets in support of UN Security Council Resolution 1973.
Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa caused concerns on Sunday when he said the air strikes went beyond the scope of the resolution to implement a no-fly zone and said he was concerned about civilians being hurt in bombing.
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But after a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Cairo on Monday, Mussa got back behind the military strikes.
"We are committed to UN Security Council Resolution 1973, we have no objection to this decision, particularly as it does not call for an invasion of Libyan territory," Mussa told a press conference with the UN chief.
However the Arab League's concerns seemed to have left their mark when European Union foreign ministers gathered for talks in Brussels on Monday.
Germany, which abstained in the Security Council vote when the resolution was passed on Thursday, said Mussa's criticism showed that Berlin had been right to fear military intervention.
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: "We calculated the risks, and when we see that three days after this intervention began, the Arab League has already criticised this intervention, I think we see we had good reasons."
Italy said its offer to contribute eight Tornado jets to the military operation was accompanied by concerns that the allied campaign "shouldn't be a war" on Libya.
"We want to verify all the actions undertaken are consistent with the mission objectives" under the UN Resolution, said Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. "We do not want to go beyond the scope of the resolution."
Analysts say Germany and Italy's criticism stemmed from the coalition's targeting of Libyan tanks and forces on the ground, rather than simply limiting their actions to implementing a no-fly zone.
Germany's objections "are a mixture of political considerations, classic pacifism", annoyance at its fellow European power France's leading role in the operation "or poor diplomatic handling", said Dominique Moisi from the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).
Italy, formerly a close ally of Moamer Kadhafi's regime, was playing its role as "a voice of discord".
While the Arab League returned to a more consensual position Monday, Mussa's approach illustrates the "schizophrenic position" of Arab states, said Jean-Pierre Maulny, of the Paris-based Institute of International and Strategic Relations.
Western nations have boasted of Arab participation in the coalition, but until now only Qatar has committed fighter jets.
The United Arab Emirates said Monday its involvement in Libya is limited to humanitarian assistance, despite reports that it too would send warplanes.
"Many countries are torn between the imperatives of their domestic and foreign policy: the Arab League knows Kadhafi is a problem and wants him to go, but at the same time there is a fear that Western intervention will be badly viewed by the Arab public opinion," he said.
In fact, everything hinges on the definition of the "no-fly zone".
Resolution 1973 permits "all necessary measures" to establish a no-fly zone, protect civilian areas and impose a ceasefire on Kadhafi's forces.
Gee, where is all that hopey changey, the world loves the US stuff we were supposed to get when Barry assumed office? Yet another campaign lie. The world now sees Obama for the joke that he is. And this pathetic loser appreciates it because he doesn't want to lead the free world. It is too much for him. Then, dude, there is the door. GET OUT.