NATO’s Decline over Libya

Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Robert E. Hunter.

From Robert E. Hunter, the Council on Foreign Relations:  NATO is unable right now even to protect civilians, which Resolution 1973 had said to use "all necessary means" to achieve. Look at the pounding of Misurata by Qaddafi forces, and the ability of Qaddafi to bring up forces and supply ammunition. This has occurred after the United States withdrew the most credible effective instruments against the Qaddafi forces, the AC-130 gunship and the A-10 warthog ground attack war craft. Without these aircraft, the chances of NATO even succeeding at its most general objective are most remote. As for going beyond that to the removal of Qaddafi, that is not included in the UN resolution and even though proclaimed as a goal by President Obama, he also indicates that the NATO campaign is not designed to do that. So you have a fundamental dilemma built in. . . .

I’m afraid the way it is going to be looked at and how it is already being looked at, is the United States is sitting it out [by] not deploying the aircraft that can work. I’m afraid that the decision on removing the AC-130s and the A-10s–particularly if it means that Qaddafi prevails even in one part of the country, or is able to beat back the challengers–is going to be read in Europe as the United States not pulling its weight in NATO. That is something I never thought as a former ambassador that I would live to see happen. . . .

The question now, of course, is that once one is involved, one has to persevere. I’m afraid that NATO is not looking like a great pillar of strength when it comes to the application of force and to resolution. Now maybe something will happen in the next few days to prove me wrong, but I’m afraid that this is a blow to NATO’s credibility for the future and also to America’s credibility, whether we like it or not.

Excerpts from interview of Robert E. Hunter, Senior Advisor at RAND and former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, by Bernard Gwertzman.  (photo: AFP)

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