NATO’s military campaign in Libya “defies strategic logic” and needs to be completely rethought before the country descends into anarchy, a former Royal Navy admiral has warned.
Rear Admiral Chris Parry said the conflict was becoming all too reminiscent of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan and a “classic example of how to act in haste and repent at leisure.”
Writing in the London-based Guardian, Parry says NATO must accept that the UN resolution that allowed coalition forces to protect Libyan civilians will not bring an end to the fighting and diplomats should now consider seeking a new mandate.
“What might a decent strategy look like? The Libyan people should, with international assistance, establish and articulate the political ends they require for themselves and their country,” Parry said. “The UK and its NATO allies could then conduct a campaign that is built around an explicit political purpose, expressed in a single, unambiguous aim, the ‘master principle of war.’”
“That would focus and prioritize military activities. This would also enable a more sensible assessment of whether further authorization from the UN might be required,” Parry said.
Parry’s analysis is understood to be shared by many senior strategists at the Ministry of Defense (MOD), who cannot speak out despite growing frustration at the limits of NATO’s activity.
Last week, the chief of the defense staff, Sir David Richards, said that NATO needed to increase its range of targets and it would be legitimate to attack the infrastructure propping up Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s regime.
He was supported by British Defense Secretary Liam Fox.
There are also a growing number of voices within the MOD who believe that NATO should now deploy the Royal Navy’s response force task group, which is currently doing exercises off the coast of Cyprus. It is being kept there for “just in case” purposes.
The task group consists of frigates, destroyers and support ships, as well as a contingent of Royal Marines.
The move would put further symbolic pressure on Qaddafi and give NATO the option of using a small number of ground troops should they be needed. However, deployment now is considered politically unacceptable. The prime minister has consistently ruled out putting troops on the ground, though that might become a necessity to provide stability if the country falls into chaos.
Parry, who was once the MOD’s director general of development, concepts and doctrine, says that the campaign has lost its way for predictable reasons.
“As in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is easy, with overwhelming force and superior organization, to gain control in a conventional conflict,” he said. “The real skill is to achieve a successful, enduring peace and political settlement. In its concentration on getting rid of Qaddafi, as an end in itself, too little attention has been paid to what happens afterwards.”