Former NATO SecGen: We’re not doing the job in Libya

Lord Robertson Atlantic Council Makins Lecture, March 2, 2010

From Robert Zeliger, Foreign Policy:  The NATO campaign in Libya is "not going as well as it should," says George Robertson, the former U.K. defense secretary who served as NATO’s secretary general from 1999 until 2003. European countries lack the military capacity to bring the operation to a close and NATO has failed to mount an effective psychological campaign against members of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi’s regime — to convince them their days are truly numbered.

All that means "it’s taking longer to achieve than it should," he told Foreign Policy, ahead of a speech he will give tonight on the topic at Chatham House in London, where he is an outgoing president. . . .

Robertson tells FP:

I think Mr. Gates makes a fair point when he says this mighty alliance after only a few weeks against a pretty impoverished country finds itself out of ammunition. We don’t have the right planes with precision bombing. We don’t have enough deployable troops.  We don’t have the assets at sea that would allow the bombing campaign to take place. But we’ve pretended up to now that because the Europeans spend $300 billion a year in defense, that we must be well armed. We are. But it’s the wrong stuff. It’s for the Cold War not the next war.

Robertson says Libya has become a true turning point for the decades-old alliance. In a nutshell, the old contract between the Europeans and the United States — that the U.S. would supply the hardware as long as Europeans provided political cover to the operations — has ended.

"In Libya, the Americans did what I always suggested they might do — which is to say, ‘It’s your fight, please take the lead. You’re big enough, you’re brave enough, you’re strong enough. You do it,’" says Robertson. "I think that’s changed things forever. This is the wake up call. People have to realize they are not ready for the next problem that comes up."

Lord Robertson is a member of the Atlantic Council’s International Advisory Board.

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