Rechercher dans ce blog

mardi 15 mars 2011

A Proposal where (almost) everybody wins / Une proposition qui plairera à (presque) tout le monde

A Proposal where (almost) everybody wins

Over the past few weeks, world leaders have attended a variety of meetings without arriving at a decision. Earlier, despite the catastrophe in Japan, the G8 met in Paris, and did not come up with a course of action. The Arab League has pronounced their agreement with a no-fly zone. Obama talks about “tightening the noose” around Qadhafi's neck. And yet, the army loyal to the “Guide” have retaken a string of towns, Ras Lanuf, Zawiya, Brega and now Ajdabiya. Things look bad for the Libyan rebels, in spite of their courage.

Almost everyone, with the possible exception of Hugo Chavez and some Libyans, agrees that Qadhafi poses a threat and that without help, Libya will either descend into an intractable civil war, or Qadhafi's forces will retake Benghazi and brutally repress the resisters. While certain hawks are beating the drum for war, Secretary Gates and General Wesley Clark prefer to proceed with caution, pointing to past difficulties with similar missions.

So, something must be done, but perhaps, for once, America shouldn't do it? This proposal centers firmly on NATO's neglected member; Turkey.

  • Turkey has a well-trained, well-equipped and experienced airforce
  • Turkey has few enemies (other than tensions with Armenia and Azerbaijan) and is popular
  • In a Middle East political landscape largely divided on sectarian line, with the two poles at Saudi Arabia and Iran, Turkey is not irrevocably aligned with either faction
  • However, since Turkey is majority Muslim, a Turkish-led intervention doesn't play into the jihadist narrative of Western infidel powers picking on Muslims
  • Prestige is important to Turks, whose feathers have been ruffled by
    • Being rebuffed when trying, with Brazil, to diffuse tensions with Iran
    • The Mavi Marmara fiasco
    • Lack of progress with EU adhesion, despite undertaking reforms
  • Turkey is not geographically far from Libya

Under this framework, NATO overall, or selected nations, or a UN force could provide tactical support and funds. This should not be too difficult, as long as a clear objective is defined. It is a mistake to enter into a conflict without a clear objective, and thus a clear point at which the conflict can be declared finished and forces leave definitively.

Une proposition qui plairera à (presque) tout le monde
Au cours des dernieres semaines, les dirigeants mondiaux se reunissaient plusieurs fois sans arriver à se mettre d'accord sur un politique commun envers la Libye. Nonobstant le catastrophe au Japon, le groupe G8 s'est réuni à Paris, mais ne décide rien. La Ligue Arabe se prononce en faveur d'une zone d'exclusion aérienne, et Obama parle de serrer le corde au cou de Kadhafi. Malgré tous ces prononcements, les forces fidèles au “Guide” enchaînent des victoires sur la côte libyenne, de Ras Lanouf à Zaouia, Bregua, et finalement Ajdabiya. Le bilan des forces rebelles n'est pas encourageant, malgré le courage du peuple Libyen.

Exceptés Hugo Chavez et quelques Tipolitains effrayés, les pouvoirs mondiaux s'entendent sure le fait que les actions de Kadhafi posent problème, et sans intervenir, le pays descendera soit en guerre civile sans fin, soit que Kadhafi reprendera Benghazi et reprimera brutalement la population. Certains hommes poltiques américains demandent haut et fort de préparer la guerre, mais le Ministre de la Défense Gates et le Général Wesley Clark conseillent plutôt le prudence, citant des cas similaires qui ont échoué.

Alors, il faut bien faire quelque chose, mais peut-être cette fois-ci, pas avec l'Amerique en tête? Cette propostion se focalise sur le mebre négligé de l'OTAN ; la Turquie.

  • L'armée de l'aire turque est bien équipée, bien entrainée et discipliné
  • La Turquie a de bonnes relation extérieures (sauf des tensions avescl'Arménie et le Azerbaïdjan) et jouit d'une bonne opinion internationale
  • Dans un Moyen Orient divisé par des clivages sectaires, s'opposant l'Arabie saoudite à l'Iran, la Turquie n'a pas définitivement choisi son camp
  • Cependant, étant de majorité musulmane, une intervention de la Turquie ne suit pas la logique djihaiste de domination des musulmans par les pouvoirs occidentaux
  • Estimant comme très important le prestige, les turques sont bien froissés de
    • avoir été repoussé quant à leur démarche avec le Brésil envers l'Iran
    • le debacle du Mavi Marmara
    • le manque d'avancement dans les négociations pour rejoindre l'Union Européenne
  • La proximité géographique de la Turquie par rapport à la Libye

Dans ce cadre, il serait possible que l'OTAN, ou certains pays occidentaux,ou l'ONU puissent fournier des aides tactiques ou finacières. Cela ne doit pas être trop difficile, une fois un objectif défini. Sans objectif, dès le début, une intervention risque de ne pas avoir de fin évidente, laissant s'enliser les intervenants.

vendredi 11 mars 2011

What to do about Libya?

The question of how to respond to the situation in Libya is proving complicated and contentious.

What's interesting is that opinions do not always line up with the general ideological stances of various political actors and commentators.

In a unilateral move, France recognized the rebels centered around Benghazi as the legitimate government of Libya. As of writing, no other government has followed the same course of action. As LeMonde reports, the rest of the EU is unsure of how to react. After all, part of the ideal of the EU is to have a common foreign policy, of which Catherine Ashton is the head. The New York Times paints a picture where only France and the UK are urging a no-fly zone, ranging them against other EU members, particularly the German heavy weight.

Various international organizations are also far from unanimous in their approach. The Sydney Morning Herald, reporting on deliberations in the UN Security Council, states " China, Russia and other nations had initially resisted that move but were swayed by Arab and African calls for action against Gaddafi." NATO is also seeking regional cooperation, along with a legal justification and demonstrated necessity to intervene.

Aside from individual governments and international organizations, experts and pundits display a wide variety of opinions.

A key question is whether Western powers should intervene at all. They are further divided into those who maintain it is not in America's interests, like Micah Zenko, and others who consider any intervention to be arrogant, imperialist interfering. Al Jazeera describes possible intervention as "disingenuous desire to reassert US leadership in the world." Many commentators emphasize the fact that US and European support for autocratic Arab regimes and participation in campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have had a detrimental effect on their perception and prestige in the Arab world. As such, another intervention could only further harm international perception of Western powers.

Proponents of intervention are also motivated by a variety of factors. The death and destruction in Libya pose a genuine humanitarian problem. Within Libyan borders, there are many reports of deadly force against unarmed civilians, as well as harassment and targeting of black Africans, and there dangerous situations at the Tunisian border. The memory of failure to respond in Rwanda, and of massacres at other flash points, like Sbrenica, fuel a heartfelt concern for the lives and livelihoods of Libyan citizens. Others see intervention in Libya as a way to avoid being on the wrong side of history in the larger context of the Arab Spring.

These are all important factors to weigh, so it will be interesting to see how the decisions are played out in the days to come.

mercredi 9 mars 2011

Is Intelligence the problem?

Room for Debate ran a feature recently asking “Why Didn't the U.S. Foresee the Arab Revolts?” The answers vary by expert, but most mention the same themes: groupthink, the unpredictability of human events, lack of resources, and higher-ups who don't want to face unwelcome news.

One of the experts consulted is Peter Bergen, who is the author of "The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda." Both this book and “Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq” by Michael Scheuer advance similar claims. In their experience, it is not a failure of intelligence services, but rather a failure of the political elite to use the intelligence in America's interest.

Both Scheuer and Bergen also advance the idea that the conflict with Al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorists has been misrepresented. When politicians claim that terrorist organizations hate freedom or the American way of life, these statements do not line up with the public positions that Al Qaeda and its affiliates have taken. In fact, they contrast the statements of Bin Laden with those of Ayatollah Khomenei, who attacked the supposedly decadent and depraved American way of life. For the most part, Al-Qaeda sticks to discussing American foreign policy and does not care very much what Americans do within the United States.

This analysis could either be a source for hope, or for despair. On the one hand, Scheuer makes the case that lower level intelligence, consular, and military personnel are doing their jobs well and ably. An article by David A. Andelman in the World Policy Journal emphasizes this point, but also points out that these dedicated public servants are often ignored and under-appreciated. Essentially, it means their hard work will have little or no effect on policy outcomes.

What is interesting is that most of the experts consulted for Room for Debate advanced different ideas than Scheuer, Bergen, and Andelman. Room for Debate suggests that intelligence is faulty or limited, while Scheuer et al say the problem is not an intelligence failure at all, but rather a lack of political will, for a variety of reasons, to act based on intelligence. If the problem is a political one, then it is difficult to know whether additional funding for intelligence gathering will have an effect.