The Atlantic Council of the United States
President and CEO,
The Atlantic Council
Director of International Security Program,
The Atlantic Council
Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard,
Royal Canadian Air Force
Location: Washington, D.C.
Federal News Service
FREDERICK KEMPE: Greetings and welcome to all of you. I’m Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. We were just sitting briefly with General Bouchard and decided that the title of this event should be, “Liberating Libya: A Commander’s Perspective.” There were more colorful titles we came up with, but they essentially encapsulated the difficulty the – of leading a complicated alliance operation of this sort and the – ultimately the success in working that through.
We’re happy to have Lieutenant Governor – excuse me – (chuckles) – I already – (laughter) – I was already looking to your next career – Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, who served as commander of NATO military operations in Libya. It’s a great honor to have you with us, sir. You did play a very important role in the recent history of the alliance.
It was last February when the U.N. Security Council condemned the use of lethal force by Moammar Gadhafi against protesters in Libya. And on March 25th, 2011, General Bouchard assumed the role of commander, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Unified Protector. If you just think of the time that was involved from the beginning – U.N. Security Council resolution to actual execution – I’m not sure who keeps records in these things, General, but I think that a lot of records were set in just the expediency of it all.
I do want to thank Saab and – Saab North America, who are partners in this commander series, one of the most popular series – speaker series we have at the Atlantic Council; and board members Dan-Åke Enstedt, who is the president of Saab North America, and Henrik Liljegren.
What we’ll be hearing, I think, are thoughts on the future , not just of what happened, but also – if not in the formal remarks, certainly in the Q-and-A – discussion of what this all means for future operations, NATO partnerships, with a backdrop of significant fiscal constraints.
After General Bouchard’s remarks, Barry Pavel – the director of the International Security Program here, which will be relaunched as the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security this September – will moderate a discussion with the General. Barry has joined us from a long and distinguished career in the Pentagon and at the White House.
I just want to say a couple of things about General Bouchard, because his career has been a long and distinguished one leading up to this operation. He was in tactical aviation within the Canadian Forces Air Command, which included flying positions in several squadrons, command of 444 Tactical Helicopter Squadron at Lohr in Germany, command of 1 Wing Kingston. He served, importantly, in the United States as deputy commander for the Continental NORAD Region on 9/11. And on that historic day, he was conducting air operations and was standing duty at the Tyndall Air Force Base on September 11th 2011.
He would later become deputy commander of the 1st Canadian Air Division; and, from August 2007 to June 2009, deputy commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, receiving promotion to Lieutenant General on taking up the appointment. In 2009 he assumed the position of deputy commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples. And of course, that’s what led to his position as commander of Operation Unified Protector, NATO’s military intervention in Libya.
So thank you very much for being here, General. The podium is yours. (Applause.)
LIEUTENANT GENERAL CHARLES BOUCHARD: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is indeed a pleasure for me to be here today and to tell you a little bit the story of Unified Protector, but more importantly try to put it in perspective of some of the lessons learned. I think it’s important – Fred did talk about liberating Libya. And the subtitle would probably be, “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up.” And some of the experiences that we’ve lived – and it’s part, in fact, of what this experience has been to us.
For those of you who are familiar with the military, commanders have coins. You’re familiar with the big coins that are given. Some of them are big enough to be belt buckles; others are smaller. We created a coin for OUP, unified – Operation Unified Protector. It’s this one here. It’s very thin, it’s very small, it was built in the back office in my office, it’s cheap and it’s flexible. And in many ways, that is the story of Unified Protector: quickly made, cheap and flexible. And that’s probably the biggest points that I’ve got to talk about.
I’ll be discussing a little bit about the strategy that we went about for this mission. And then after that I’ll be talking about some of the major lessons learned for – but I can – for those of you who have other duties and will have to go early, or for those of you who wish to take mental holidays, I’m going to leave you with three messages right from the start.
The first one is that doctrine and processes are for the guidance of the wise and the blind obedience of the fools. The second one is: Communicate, communicate, communicate. And through communication and understanding who you’re talking to, I think you can go a long way. And finally, the third point is agility of the mind. And with agility of the mind, you can find that many difficult situation can be resolved.
For some of you, this will be “déjà entendu.” You’ve heard this stuff before; we have seen it before, which is my – one of my point is that, will we ever learn – because we’ve observed some lessons here again. I was talking to some of my colleagues over – and the colleagues of this council over lunch today. And some of them, we’ve seen this – these events before. So will we – will we learn it? And how can we make sure that we’ve learned this part?
Finally, the views that I express are mine. And every day that goes by and we look at – we did in Libya, I also think about the great work that warriors from many nations are doing every day in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and other areas. And we think of all of them. But what I will offer to you are those lessons that came out of Libya and how we work at it.
It all started with Odyssey Dawn, which was led by the United States coalition, also joined by the U.K. and France. And in fact Canada joined them as well. And they started the involvement as NATO was in the process of building itself to do this. It – and it was led, and the operation started. If you want to put a difference between Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector, you could in fact look to the fact that Odyssey Dawn allowed us to gain air superiority early. In fact, we were able to operate – NATO was able to operate. But also Odyssey Dawn went after fixed targets. By the time NATO took over, we went hunting; we had to go and hunt for the people we had to deal with. And this created an interesting point.
The legal basis for this is found in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970 and 1973, which provided us with three tasks, the most important one having been the protections of civilians and population center under attack or threat of attack. This drove the mission. From there, we also had – we also had two additional task, was to conduct an embargo – arms embargo – and also a no-fly zone. And these were the three main tasks that we went around.
Odyssey Dawn took over. And by the time Odyssey Dawn turned back – turned back to us, the – we had a perfect storm brewing. The regime forces based off Tripoli had continued and regained some of the initiative and were on their way – and in fact had made it all the way up to Ajdabiya. The TNC – Transitional National Government – or Council, rather – based in Benghazi were being shelled daily. So was Misurata. And also there was shelling conducted in the Jebel Nafusa area, Berber mountains area. Finally, the people of Tripoli were constantly under the thumb of security forces, under a fellow called Abdullah Senussi. And the population was truly oppressed.
Our perspective – some of the points that we had that was difficult is that momentum was being regained slowly by the regime forces. At the same time, Mother Nature had a vote in there and (sucked ?) in all of the information; we got ourselves in difficulties that we could not do some identification of targets very well because of the weather. Mother Nature has a vote in this process as well.
Also regime forces changed their tactics. They got rid of their military vehicle, their military equipment – or, correction, their military uniform. And they actually – we found ourselves with both sides having the same equipment and both sides dressed in similar fashion. And in fact, a lot of the equipment would shift back and forth within hours from one to the other. And it increased the difficulty of – difficulty of the mission as we went through.
The last point that I’m going to talk about is in the transfer from Odyssey Dawn to Unified Protector. To use a football analogy, it was a Hail Mary pass. And it was a long pass, but we caught the football. And NATO can catch footballs, by the way, and we were able to do it. But interestingly, a lot of the – a lot of the information that we had was privileged national information from one side; had to be transferred into NATO – a NATO organization. So that the transfer of intelligence and information became an issue as well. And it’s probably another critical point we need to talk about, is exchange of information and the need to share, not the need to know.
We looked at this problem, given the three tasks that we had, and we established the center of gravity of TNC as Benghazi. We knew that if it fell, we – it would be very difficult, and the populations was under severe danger. Regime forces had orders to kill every male between 17 and 40 years old in – since they got into Benghazi. That is the threat that was faced by the people of the – by the TNC and its people. We – Tripoli was identified as the center of gravity for regime forces because orders remained and emanated from Tripoli; the power remained there. And finally, from a NATO perspective, our own center of gravity was the alliance itself, making sure that all of us would stay together.
We looked at the problem, and because of the difficulty in identifying who was who, in fact it became difficult for us to get involved in any close-in battle. And in fact this is the strategy that we designed, was to hit concentration area, the second echelon. Concentration of forces, lines of communications, depots – ammunition depots, maintenance depots, organization, and command and control nodes.
The – and it’s important that we talked about it: The mission was the protection of civilians. The most difficult and complex ending to this would have if Saif al-Islam had said, I’m taking over for my father; I love the people; I will stop violence. It would have been good from a NATO perspective, but in the long run this would have been a difficult event to manage. As it were, the regime insisted until the last possible moment to inflict casualties on civilian population. In fact, as late as October, orders were being given to behead people in Bani Walid area if they were part of the TNC or seen as supporting the TNC.
So violence or threat of violence remained. So it’s important to understand that, that the regime fell and it took to go that far, but not necessarily – that was not the end-state that we were looking at. We were looking at the end of hostility, the removal of all large weapon systems from the built-up area, and the clear movement of humanitarian assistance.
We formed our own headquarters out of Naples, Combined Joint Force headquarters. It was an international headquarters. My deputy was a British maritime officer, two-star. And my chief of staff was a French army officer, two-star as well. Head of my intelligence section was a Turkish brigadier general. Heads of – head of targeting was an Italian brigadier general. Head of plans and operations was a British officer. And we had a Greek officer in charge of the resource development. So this was a true NATO headquarters; and it works. The – and we could make it. But there’s some cultural differences that we must learn about each other to make these efforts take place.
We formed the headquarters – small one; 275 people. Put things in perspective, Odyssey Dawn had about 900 on board Mount Whitney as a combined force headquarters. The air component headquarters was situated in Poggio Renatico in northern Italy with 300 people. That’s it. So – hence the very thin coin that I’ve been talking about here; whereas a thousand people in a CFAC organization would not be surprising. Maritime component was based at Nissita, Italy, just south of Naples. And it was headed by an Italian three-star.
There were boots on the ground. There were Libyan boots; there were Libyan flip-flops, Libyan running shoes. These were the Libyan people – poorly organized, trained, led, equipped. But these were the people that were fighting for their freedom. And these were people also working to make sure that civilians were not killed; and our mission was to make sure that civilians were not hurt in our doing.
As the campaign developed – and I told you a little bit about the strategy – it evolved over time – over the mission. We were not the air component and the maritime component of the Libyan forces. And we – and also this was not a Libyan air campaign. This was a combined and joint operation which involves many aspects of it, of which the air component played a major part, and I think it was important.
Over the seven-month period, it had evolved. The first aspects of it was really stabilizing the area, making sure that Benghazi and Ajdabiya area were away from bombing and shelling. We were facing difficult points, because at – along this road here, 80 kilometers from Ajdabiya, is – on one side is a pipeline for oil; on the other side is a pipeline for water. And if – we knew that if it went beyond Ajdabiya, it would be difficult to work this without touching critical infrastructure, which we did not want to – which we did not want to hit.
So it stabilized itself in the area. And in fact, regime forces decided to dig in in the Brega area. Misurata was facing shelling every day and were being pushed into the Mediterranean. The maritime component task became, at all – its number-one priority was to keep the port of Misurata open for the evacuation of wounded, and also to allow the movement of humanitarian assistant in that city. Finally, stabilizing the western mountains as well was important.
From there, the second evolution of this was a stable period where we saw forces being – coming to – the – we saw the Libyans organize themselves. Some people confused that with a stalemate; it was not a stalemate. It was a matter of these folks organizing themselves into a cohesive manner to face a very well-organized regime forces.
The third part was the offensive from their perspective, which – where we saw – began movement from Ajdabiya into Brega and onward to Sirte. Misurata pushed boats south towards Sirte and to towards Tripoli. And finally we saw the western mountain areas move towards Tripoli as well. And that culminated in Tripoli falling.
Tripoli fell at a much faster pace than we thought it would happen. But it also led us the conclusion that, indeed, the people of Libya wanted their freedom. But they were concerned. NATO was operating on a 90-day cycle, 90-day mandate to be – and they were concerned that NATO would stop. And, you know, you kind of hedge your bet on this one – and you make sure that people are going to stay, or you make sure you will win. And it was understandable, but it fell.
Finally, Sirte and Bani Walid became the last area. Some areas in the Waddan-Zillah area and Sebha were also the final areas to fall. But really it was truly a much faster – much faster movement and pace of action as it went. Interestingly enough, Gadhafi himself opted to go to Sirte in his last stand. And if we look at history a little bit, we also find that – in Iraq we saw similarity as he had chosen to go back to his own town as well. So – the hometown as well. So it’s interesting.
Now to go back and – you’ve now have a bit of our strategy, how it develop itself on the ground. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the – some of what we’ve learned in there. I think it was Peter Singer (ph) that says hope is not a strategy. Nor is Inshallah, but sometimes that’s what you got to work with. And that’s what we did. And then it’s about understanding, though, what hope means to someone and what Inshallah means to someone, especially to the people of Libya. And we worked through that.
From a doctrinal process, NATO has exercises, and we internationally have exercises, but – and we did work hard at this, and we prepared for this. But in many ways, one of the recommendation we’ve made to NATO is that we need to be more aggressive. We had the team from the Joint Warfare Centre at NATO come over to visit us in Naples during the operation. And he said, we would have problem duplicating the kind of temple (sic: template) you’re operating under during an exercise. And my view was, you should. You should, in fact.
We should always push ourselves to the limit and adjust – understanding, though, that for some, culturally to have an exercise that fails is not appropriate. So here again we must understand the culture of the people that says, OK, let us work together. And in fact, an exercise that pushes us to the limit so we can find the seam is the way to do this, not just coming close to it and then declaring victory after that. And I think it’s an important point to understand.
NATO – as Fred mentioned, NATO in the past was perhaps not as speedy as we did in this point. If we look at the Bosnia area from the – Bosnia example, from the time the United Nations security resolution came in to the time troops were on the ground, it took one year. In three weeks we developed four OPLANs – operational plans – developed three end-states.
And essentially a week before the operation started, I was asked to join my boss – commander, Joint Force Command Naples, Admiral Locklear – to report on the Mount Whitney, talk to him. And essentially he said, congratulation, you are the commander; you’re taking over in a week. Come back tomorrow and tell me what the plan’s going to look like. And that is the speed in which we went through it.
And if you look at it, we had to go through varied speedy processes; speedy processes in the planning, where normally there’s quite a process that follows in that – North Atlantic Council’s directions to the time a mission is executed. We had to find ourselves breaking processes and in fact shortening them and going to crisis response management, which caused some people – and by the way, I talk about nations that talk about people – there’s no such a thing as bad people and good people; there’s different cultures and different approach to it. And what you have to understand is how these react to a situation and how can we, as a group, make it happen.
And this is where a lot of the processes – people will – people would come to me and say: No, no. You’re not following the process. And you’re not establishing according to doctrine and so on. And to me, was doctrine is there to help us. But doctrine wasn’t written for Libya. Doctrine wasn’t written for Kosovo. There’ll be doctrine amended after Libya, but it shouldn’t become the doctrine of the next place. And in fact, use it as a guide, as a tool, but don’t become a slave to it, because you will find yourself fighting the same old points again.
It’s a chaotic environment, by the way. It’s not comfortable for a lot of folks to work in that. I mean – (inaudible) – with all due respect to my Italian colleagues, that 18 months driving in Italy certainly prepared me well to understand chaotic environment. (Laughter.) Speed is of the essence. And when speed has to take over and expediency, then processes have to go on the side. Remember, people were dying out there and we had to get on with this. So that’s probably the biggest point sort of that I want to talk, this part of it.
We also brought procedures and process. Many of the people who had – who were working on the Libyan campaign had experience in Iraq, had experience in Bosnia, had experience in Afghanistan. The problem is you can’t try to adapt Libya to all of these other theater. In fact, you must adapt yourself to it. And in the early days, we had some difficulties managing that – difficulties in the sense that we hadn’t shifted the paradigm yet, and we need to move on. And for us, it would – became important, you know. This is Libya. Let’s take what we’ve learned from all of these other places, apply them where they – we can apply them, but in other places, just don’t go and just ignore those points.
Examples – Afghanistan has the ability to spend – has quite a bit of ISR. There are people on the ground to give intelligence and information. We have no boots on the ground, no NATO boots on the ground, and two Predator orbits. So that tells you a little bit of the kind of intelligence we were getting or the sources that we were getting from was limited at the beginning.
Also, the changing of the process – positively identify a target as friend – or this in case regime, forces – was a matter of minutes, not hours, of observation. And we went through this. Probably that cost us the most is to adapt our targeting campaign to – our targeting processes – to this. Targeting process starts with intelligence and intelligence gathering. And then use, I think, workable intelligence to do the job. Some of them I’ve already alluded to. We have national intelligence network. Then these must be blended in to either formal coalition – or former coalition such as Five Eyes – Canada, U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. But if we did that, it left quite a bit of the nations that were actually participating in the strikes out. And this is not acceptable. So now we had to make sure that intelligence would be provided to all of those who needed it. We needed to share intelligence, not need-to-know – truly, truly an important point.
Finally, because we were 28 nations under NATO, but we also had four partners, Sweden and three Arab nations, actually NATO Secret had to be declassified to Mission Secret itself, which caused some problem as well, because by the time you get to a – to a Mission Secret, the level of intelligence that you’re getting is – and you can probably say you can question the – whether it’s actionable intelligence you’re receiving. The point here, again, is there are processes established. But it’s important to understand that when it comes to a mission, intelligence must be shared with all equally, because it was critical. And it’s a page from General Horner that he learned during the first campaign in Iraq, was you cannot accept casualties based on knowledge that may have been known but not shared with somebody. This would have been critical to the alliance and not acceptable. So we worked around it. We had to create our own fusion cell, and that’s probably the biggest point here for us was to establish a place where all of these various players would come in and actually share intelligence, turn it into actionable intel, first part.
Second part then is your – now that you have intelligence and you understand some of the points, where else can we go? Well, what we found also and something that we’re not good at in the early days is social networks today are a source of intelligence – a great deal. People in Libya talk to each other via Skype. They talk – they would post stuff on YouTube. They send emails to each other. So there are social networks, webpages and the like that we need to do mining in there as well and learn to work at this. I had a very small intelligence cell. And in fact, my social network cell consisted of three people.
So to me, in the future, that’s not only go with the traditional methods that we know, but what is today’s environment? Social networking, social media. How do we capitalize on that and get the – get some effects out of that as well? Then the targeting became the difference between – or the progression that goes from the art of war to the science of war. The art of war archman (ph) put things together. Scientists take things apart. Well, the – and the act – it was put, the intelligence that we had, and then link every target that we did to the mission. If it was tied to and there was a connection to the protection of civilian, yes, we would do it. But if you could not make the connectivity to that, we did not engage those targets, because this was the mission as given to us and strategy to task became an important point.
So we went to this – to this concept. It’s not one that is done by one individual. It’s done by a team. We had legal advisers. We had political advisers. We had cultural advisers. We had public affairs. We had targeting specialists. We had operation specialists. We – it was a team effort. And this is – the targeting was a team effort and truly important. And in many places, this became not only what are we going to do if we hit this target, what is the primary effect, but also what could be the secondary and a tertiary effect.
Let me give you a few examples from that, because to me these were examples that became important to me. I remember reading an article about – I believe he worked for General Petraeus in Iraq – and he said when we first – when the U.S. first arrived, we saw them as liberator. But over time, we lost faith and – our faith in them – and it became problematic. And to me, keeping trust and respect and confidence of the people of Libya in NATO was truly important, because we didn’t want to do that. The U.S. – General Petraeus worked for the Hearts and Mind campaign after that. And our aim was let’s not have to go through a hearts and mind, let’s operate it right from the start and work throughout.
The second example that I pull – talk to people. And if we – and there are plenty examples, whether it’s in Iraq, whether it’s the Balkans, especially in Serbia, is if you break things, you’re going to have to rebuild them if you want the country to run at the end. So for us, it became important not to touch any of the oil infrastructure, the medical infrastructure, the electricity, the water – all of those important networks to keep this country together. By Christmas this year, Libya was able to go back to 60 (percent) – around 60 percent export of its oil. It’s not about oil. It’s about having a nation that can actually has – have its own funding source and find money for themselves instead of being supported by the international community. And with money will come prosperity, trade, and stability, and it’s all part of it. So again – and it’s about the welfare of the population. So we actually – this was part of our mindset and really the second example.
The third example is this one point I told the air component and in fact many others is we will not have to go through – I do not want to have go through events where we find ourselves that we shot the wrong bus, we shot the wrong thing. So I want – we’re going to have to be very specific as to how we do it and what we do. And we refer to it in many ways as courageous restraint, because if you’re an airman, to bomb a place is not – it’s technically possible and it’s not that difficult with the technology we have today, but to make the hard decision to say, no, I will not bomb today, because I do not have all the conditions that we have. And we are under directions of zero civilian casualty – zero civilian casualties in any of our activities. So it became very important.
And these were the three examples that, to me, I kept with me throughout the campaign. And so we continue with the decision – what would we hit and when would we hit it and how would we hit it? Because we went through this process where school was out, school was in, school came out. And schools were being used as rally points and concentration of forces for the regime. Then Ramadan came in. And it’s a truly religious, important event in the life of a – the Muslim faith and Muslim people. And we respected that. But we also knew that it changed their pattern of life and that much less activity during daytime, but a lot more activity in nighttime. So we adapted to that as well. Then school came back in again and it became important to understand these aspects of it – the universities and these points.
So we put all of these factors together and that was the – to me, the art of war is putting it all together, and then handed it over to the targeting experts who find out the right bomb to target, the right fusing, the right time, the right approaches and all of that. Let me give you an example. (Battle Zawiya ?) was a place inside Tripoli. The regime claimed that it was full of civilians who were acting as human shield for Gadhafi and his regime – for the regime. I beg to differ with that, because I think if you look at the tape, you’ll find that a lot of the guards were not looking outward to keep people from coming in. They were looking inward to keep people from going out. But to keep them busy, right beside the main bunker, they create a kiddy’s park, an amusement park. There was a carousel. There was a bouncy castle and the like.
We actually discovered after observing that about 2 o’clock in the morning, they would actually leave this amusement park and go watch a movie about 50 meters down the road. And this allowed us the space to operate and to go into and hit the bunker that night. And that’s the kind of – that’s the kind of study that our air component team and the targeting team did. We watched a soccer game take place for two hours because – right around two SA-8 vehicle, surface-to-air vehicles. And we waited till the game to break out, and then we went in and struck. That’s the kind of timing that we took place.
And put all of this together, then inside a coalition each nation has also got a sovereign right and sovereign responsibility to act in accordance with international laws but also their own laws. So we would find ourselves with certain nations being uncomfortable with certain targets. I never – that never bothered me. What was important was that all of the targets were addressed as necessary. And we found ourselves here again having a more collegial approach to it. And understanding why certain nations would not do certain things I think is an important point because everybody in the alliance has a vote. And I think it’s important.
At the end, complex target methodology allowed us to minimize collateral damage and optimize the desired effect that we were after. The – I talked a little bit about intel fusion and I won’t go much further than that. But I’m going to talk about numbers, the numbers game, because at the beginning we went through – and we’ve seen this before somewhere else. How many tanks did you kill today? How many tanks were destroyed? How many tanks against what they have total?
And I’m going to go to – if we are in an effects-based business – and what I meant by that was the number of tanks is immaterial. The number of targets destroyed is immaterial. It’s the effect that civilians are still dying is really what is important here. And this is where we stop counting tanks destroyed. We stop counting artillery destroyed. We actually looked – because as long it was one artillery piece or one tank or one mercenary killing people, we were not achieving the effects that we were given.
I also learned that from the other perspective, which was in NATO, when you ask for forces, you’re actually asking them in terms of numbers rather than effects, which is interesting. In our case, we’d have up to 80 jets available or 80 fighters – fighter aircraft available. But the Saudi Arabia would not allow us much more than 50 to 60 every day. Fifty to 60 – this was a country 1,300 kilometers by 1,000 kilometers; the side of Afghanistan with 40 to 50 sorties a day. You can see that it’s rather limited. So what do you do? You prioritize. You learn to prioritize where civilians are at risk first. And then how we work – having worked the civilian – working on the center of the gravity in the command and control sites, and also ensuring that the weapon storage weren’t used to feed to fight further. And we prioritized it. And we work it.
But really what I’m getting at to is effects-based operation. An effects-based operation works well for some cultures. Effects-based is about giving a mission, a commander’s intent, and you let people go through. But some cultures are not comfortable with that. They prefer to be told exactly what is required of them. And here again, I’m in the effects-based business. I would give effects – keep the port of Misurata open. How you do it – maritime component – is your responsibility. And really, to me, when there was a difference between operational level of command, which is the what, and the how are the component commands to do. And it worked very well. I think it was Patton that says: Give your people clear direction and watch them do it. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. And that’s exactly to me what it was is give them clear directions and get out of the way and let people get on with that effects-based operation. But it’s not something that every nation can be comfortable.
Under NATO also the concept of comprehensive approach is one where the acronym PMESII – political, military, economic, social, infrastructure, and information – these are all aspects. It’s clear to me right from the start that military campaign are more than military. In fact, we could control very limited aspect of the military since we did not control or have access to the Libyan people on the ground. But it’s important to understand what are the political objectives, what were the objectives of the surrounding countries, and what were the objectives and political interests and concerns of the people that are part of this alliance. So it’s really important to understand that.
And again, processes are nice, but push them aside and try to understand what are the economic points. Sixty-five percent of the oil export of Libya is from this region here in the east. So it – you can see the strategic importance it was for Libya to regain this territory. Well, it became evident for us that it was a point to note as well and to understand that.
Same thing with the social. I talked about Ramadan. I talked about the regional differences between each regions out there. And to me, these are the points that must be understood. And it’s important to understand that. I talked to you about the infrastructure. It’s important that what you’re going to leave behind is still workable.
Communication’s most important aspect of it. And communicating is more than talking at each other. It’s about more importantly – I did better communication when I listened to people. And if I was a – if there was something I would do better today, was to learn more about each cultures of each of the nations that were part of it inside NATO – within NATO and also of the Arab partners and allies and of the people of Libya. And it’s – once you understand why people are doing things, it’s a lot easier then to get on with it and also to find a way for everybody to work together. And that’s probably the biggest point that I had from that – communicate.
I communicated a fair bit with my chain of command as well and with the nations. And it was important here, again, to exchange – not that I did what the nations wanted – as much as I needed to understand each nation’s interest, if there were any particular interests and how did they affect the accomplishment of our mission to protect civilians. The – and I think it was important.
Fifty percent of this campaign was kinetic, in my opinion. The other 50 percent was nonkinetic. And this is where terms such as strategic communications, public affairs, information operation, and psychological operations are important. Strategic communications is more than what you’re going to tell the press. It’s what are the key messages and who are the audiences. And you need to understand that. What was the audiences inside Libya? The TNC, the – and also the regime forces and the mercenaries themselves, because these were different groups. What were the key strategic messages to the partners and the regional neighbors? What were the interests and the audiences inside NATO, outside NATO and the world itself? Because the credibility of NATO was at stake as well here, and it’s important to put it all in perspective.
Public affairs – simple point: Tell the facts. Stick to the facts and pass them. The other side, the regime, used the press in many ways to provide misinformation. And we never got in the business of arguing with them. We just stuck to the facts. And I think it paid off in the end.
The only other points – and I’ll talk about that, as well as psychological operations – is how do I talk somebody else into stopping what they’re doing without using force to do this? And here again, one of the – we dropped leaflets. In fact, we dropped over 9 million leaflets out there, and it was to reach some of the population. But we could have reached them in many other ways through social networks as well. And how do we do that? How do we get into a future battle space where people are talking on Skypes (sic), they’re reading Facebook and MySpace and talking to each other and passing on YouTube and the like? And perhaps I think there’s places here where I see we have lots to – lots to go.
Agility of the mind is the last point. And attitude is everything. Leave your ego at the door and learn about each other. And really remain agile, don’t let process get in your way. And what may seem as, to some, as “I don’t understand what they want,” well, if you don’t understand and they don’t tell you, then produce it and say this is how I read back to you, which is the essence of communicating, again, is let me read back to you what you just told me or what I understood you are trying to tell me. And it works at the personal level, interpersonal level. It works at the international level as well. And that’s the point I’m trying to talk about or the point I’m trying to make here – agility of the mind.
So at the end of the day, we had three key tasks: the protection of civilians, the embargo and the no-fly zone. And I believe we met those – (inaudible) – with success.
But the victory belongs to the people of Libya. This was a Libya and Libyan people victory. They’re the one fought for it; they’re the one who earned their victory. I think we’re going to go a long way. I think Libya today is positioned – and we can cover that in the question periods perhaps, as to the future and what will happen and how do we – how do we understand their journey to a Libyan democracy?
And I do say Libyan democracy; I think it’s important. For NATO it was a success. I believe we validated the strategic concept and the need for rapid response to a crisis. And I – it can be done. It can be done; and I think today I see many improvement as people go there.
And finally we’ve made some new partnerships. From a military perspective I think we need to continue to work on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, ISR. We need to be able to link these together. And we need to be able to talk to each other as partners and into an alliance, because a lot of our systems are national systems. And we have lots of stovepipes. And then we have to build new system to bridge these points.
And my point to the makers of these systems is, I don’t need translator boxes that will take various languages or various security classification. I need multilingual systems that can actually jump back and forth while allowing a nation to retain its own privacy and its own need for secrecy. And we’re not there yet, and I think there’s still a long way to go there.
I think we’ve learned that it’s not bigger bombs that we require; it’s smaller bombs that we require. We need precision-guided munition with low collateral-damage effects. We need to be able to link each other, and we need to continue to develop leaders that will understand and understand about military operations that are more than just giving orders.
It’s about inter-relations with people, understanding their culture and understanding their weakness and their strength, capitalizing the weakness, minimizing the strength, and get everybody to work together, because that’s what the strength of the alliance is all about, is everybody works together.
Let me close with a final word from a personal perspective about leadership. A friend of mine who passed away a few years back defined leadership as: the art of telling people to go to war, and having – to go to hell, rather, and have them look forward to the trip. The – actually my perspective on that, on the leadership aspect at the operational level, is the kindergarten rules.
There are three major kindergarten rules that you should work with. One is, you need to get along with everybody in the school yard. Second is, you need to share your toys. And third is, don’t forget to take naps in the afternoon. (Laughter.) Ladies and gentlemen, that completes my presentation. Thank you, sir. (Applause.)
Am I on schedule? (Audio break.)
MR. PAVEL: Well, thank you, General, for not only excellent remarks but also really interesting and really important for this audience in particular – which is the policy community, the public, government policymakers, et cetera. I have about 10 questions to ask you, but I won’t. But I would like to ask you one, which I thought was a new – a new characterization that I heard in your – in your remarks. And then – and then we’ll open it to the audience.
You characterized the handoff from Odyssey Dawn to Operation Unified Protector as a Hail Mary pass. Can you talk more about that? And did that have any relationship to the Obama administration’s sort of overall strategic approach to this mission – to Unified Protector as certainly playing a role but, as one White House official put it, leading from behind? And so, sort of – can you just talk about that transition a little bit more?
GEN. BOUCHARD: Well, from my perspective, I think it was important as a global community to have NATO take the lead on this operation as quickly as possible. He had the international legitimacy to provide it through the U.N. Security Council. NATO had voted unanimously to proceed with this. And we’re told, get on with that. So to me it was to become more inclusive and come together.
So time became the essence, and we wanted to move as quickly as possible to show that NATO could actually take this mission and take it – and take the lead from that. So we pushed the limit. To me, there’ll never be a commander that’ll tell you he’s ready or she’s ready to take over this mission. They’ll always want a couple more weeks. And at one point you will know – shoot the puck, as we say, and then you get on with it. The – and we did. And it was – I think it was an important part. It was an important for the nations of NATO, for the partners to be inclusive and to, as quickly as possible, build the alliance.
You did allude to certain expressions, and one of them was, lead from the rear. And I’m not sure if I – if I share their approach to this. My approach to it is actually, the United States played a big role to this mission. The United States’ role was to provide capability – unique capabilities and capacity that does not exist inside NATO. And they did that.
Also, at the leadership level, SACEUR is a U.S. admiral. My commander, Admiral Locklear, is a U.S. admiral. So I think – I think this was an international team put together. So I opine to you that I think everybody played a role, albeit in this case the U.S. opted to be more balanced in its approach, and in fact give the tasking of leadership and cooperation to the broader NATO community.
MR. PAVEL: Thanks very much. I’ll ask one more question; then we’ll open it to the audience. We had the administration put its budget on the – to our Congress for fiscal year ’13 yesterday. It includes a significantly new approach to defense strategy and investments. We heard about the strategy in some various announcements last month. We have some of the numbers now, the investments in a much-reduced defense budget for at least the U.S. military.
If we had to do another Libya – and there’s other defense budgets also suffering from significant cuts – if we had to do another operation of this sort, what do you – what do you – do you think we could do it again? And if – especially if the cuts continue, sort of, where do you think the threshold is for being able to put a coalition together to do an operation of this sort – which is even largely an airpower operation but also heavily reliant on enablers like intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, transportation, tankers, et cetera?
GEN. BOUCHARD: Most valid question, difficult to quantify when we look at the various nations. But I think, as we look at the – all of our national issues – whether it being a national debt, being the economy, being the euro – the standing of the euro in the EU – all of us are facing financial challenges. And therefore, it – to me, it drives us to see that alliance warfare is the right way to go, because it’s about cost sharing, it’s about risk sharing and it’s about working together.
But it – with that comes also the need to understand that alliance warfare also is a more collegial way of doing business. And in some places, it may take a little bit more time. But the results can be accomplished in the same way. And in fact, it’s probably not a bad thing to listen to what the others have got to say to put together.
So could the alliance put another mission like this? Absolutely – in terms of capabilities, in terms of knowledge. As far as the sustainment and the scope of it, I think the future and the economies of the various nations that are part of NATO will dictate that. But I think we also need to take a look globally at NATO capabilities and decide what should reside within NATO, what should reside within each countries. And are there any capabilities that do not need necessarily to be duplicated from one nation to the other, but are some nations better suited for certain interests and others for certain activities? And try to find through this alliance a way to operate together and, as I said, share the responsibility, share the cost and share the risks.
MR. PAVEL: Thank you very much. We’ll go to the floor now to see if there are other questions for General Bouchard. Yes, in the third row.
Q: Maureen Campbell, U.S. Navy OPNAV N2N6. I was wondering if you could speak a little bit more to the lessons learned with regard to coalition interoperability and C4ISR systems, networks and platforms. How well did we work together with data links and communications in the actual operational environment?
GEN. BOUCHARD: Many of the systems in the network are developed on a national basis. Each of us have got a national industry that needs to be supported. And the difficulty is that many of these national systems are developed to suit national requirements and not necessarily alliance’s requirements. So the communication from one system to the other can be difficult.
I had a Canadian system. I was aware of U.S. systems, the British systems and the like. And then you have NATO systems. But even the NATO system need to mature even further. We need to go beyond this. The technology in terms of link, in terms of exchange of information, data link and transfer of information is a place where we need to continue. But it’s a difficult part, because on one side you – you’re facing national interest and national requirements. And on the other side are alliance requirements.
And therein lies the difficult part, is where do we find that balance between those two – those two end of the spectrum to find a place where we could work? And I think it starts at the – at the policy level, where we agree – I think you can find within military structures, we all agree we need to talk to each other. And we can probably all find out some way. But there has to be a policy architecture that nations will drive to that will provide them a place to go that ensures interoperability.
And it applies not only C4ISR, it applies to movement of airplanes, movements of ship, transfer of data, transfer of information, logistic system. It applies across the board, is how do we find a way to do this? And it’s not simple. NATO has been around for a quite a while, and we’re still struggling through many of those.
And at one point, one has to accept that for the good of the alliance you may have to form – to create a system that will be able to operate – either cost a little bit more or not have the full capabilities that perhaps you were waiting for or hoping for. Or if you do, as I said, we need to create systems that are multilingual, not create boxes that can translate from one system to another. And we’re not there yet.
So it’s a difficult part. And it’s something that needs to go. But I would say right from the start, you can work it from the bottom. We’ve seen this in Afghanistan with the Afghan mission system network. But it also requires that umbrella on top, and that policy framework where people – gives a place for people to go to, and to put these two together and to find a workable solution.
MR. PAVEL: Thanks. Another question in the last row, in the far corner there.
Q: Thank you. My name is Max Kelly. I’m with Center for Complex Operations at NDU. Historically, military commanders charged with protecting civilians have had an extremely difficult time interpreting that mandate, particularly because it doesn’t necessarily imply – or clearly imply a particular end state – political end state and set of goals.
You mentioned some of the analysis you did – and particularly your mention of the center of gravity for the regime and your prioritization of different kinds of targets – implying that you obviously did go through quite an extensive analysis and come to some conclusions about what – at least some intermediate end states would be required to achieve the protection-of-civilians mandate. Could you walk us through some of that analysis?
GEN. BOUCHARD: Very complex, and it’s really trying to understand, first of all, what is happening on the ground and what are the tactics being used, who’s using them, how are they using it. But the most important point is the effects at the end. Are – is there still violence going against civilian? Working your way back from that – for us it was nearly impossible, without tactical air control systems on the ground and clear understanding of the full picture on the ground – it was very difficult to get involved in that close an – close an engagement.
But this is where we said our value will come from engaging long-range weapons systems, artillery, rockets, large concentration of troops that were being moved forward, the logistic strain that was feeding the – this organization, and also the centers – be it communications, command and control, logistic centers.
And we formed a team together of that, and this is where also it became important. As I said, everything we did had to be based on a clear understanding: How does this relate to our mission – that responsibility that we had to protect the population in our action? And if you could not draw those links clearly, we went back, reassessed it and redefined the problem a little bit more.
But we set those standards to make sure that exactly we stayed within our mandate. And that was the most important point. Never once did I consider that we’re – we were straying anywhere outside. We stayed well inside the mandate. But also, to us, it was – it’s more than military minds, it’s more than targeteers, it’s more than weaponeers.
It’s also cultural. It’s also political. It’s also legal. It’s also perception – global perception, our own perception, and that bond of trust that you’re trying to develop between the people of Libya to make sure that they still have trust and respect into the actions of NATO towards the mission.
And this is where the team becomes – and you have to be very collegial about this and allow everybody to do this. Also, this is where the good part of an alliance, where you receive information and knowledge from many partners who look at the world differently. And their views will help you understand.
I spent a lot of time talking to our cultural advisers about the customs of that country and what would it be if we – if we worked that part, and how do we stop the population from suffering, from being targeted, from being starved, from being not provided with electricity, with water.
So it’s the whole chain aspect of it as well, because it’s more than just a kinetic action against a population, but also all those other parts of it – running the satellite at night to find out where the electricity is, what part of the country has or does not have water, what is the flow out there and how does it work? And this is where the team got together and really worked at this, and much of my advisers were those political advisers, policy advisers, legal advisers.
So it’s pretty much getting the team together and play it, give clear directions, play it. And then at one point every day we would make those decisions as to what will be engaged, what will not be engaged, what we need to develop further to understand, and what do we need to do to achieve the mission we were given and the linkage to that.
So it’s – it is a process that we developed. It went a little bit outside the doctrine, because our mission was not to search and destroy someone; it was to protect a population. So there’s a – there’s a shift in there into how you approach this concept and how you work it. So for us, this was the part – and this collegial approach to it.
And I know some time for a military commander talking about collegial approach is – doesn’t sound right; well, it does. It does. It’s about, as I said before, the political, the military, the social, the cultural aspect, the economic aspects, the infrastructure – understanding all of this. And to me, that’s the essence of being able to run this kind of mission, especially in the protection of population rather than a more conventional approach to warfare and combat.
MR. PAVEL: Yes, Harlan Ullman in the front.
Q: General, I ask – emphasis on old – an old professor from the National War College, what prepared you in your career for this particular assignment? Was it through the Canadian system of military education, war colleges? Was it through conversations with guys like Chuck Horner or Mike Short (sp)? Was it war games? Did Jim Stavridis hold seminars? Because you display a phenomenal bringing together collection of necessary skill sets to do this is a very effective way that not necessarily is the norm.
So I wonder when you’ve looked back and your long and distinguished career, what really empowered you most or gave you the thought power, and as you talk about, the mental agility, for this particular assignment.
GEN. BOUCHARD: Thank you for your question. Throughout this operation I had a friend back home who’s been a mentor to me over these years. And we talked about that a little bit because he asked me a similar question. You know, what do you think prepared you for this? And to me, the simplest answer is that it took 37 and a half years to get me to where – to where I was. I’m a slow learner, so it took me quite a while to get there.
But the point is the ability to fall back on every one of those points – whether you learn through history, reading the book of General Horner or General Schwarzkopf, or reading several of those books; seven years in the United States working; the experience of 9-1-1, watching that Canadian leaders, NATO leaders work together; and understanding that at the end of all of this is – no matter what, command is how you inter-relate with other people.
You know, a dictator does it by fear; a transformational leader does it by convincing others that it’s the right thing to do. Having convinced them, then it much easier for them to get on with it. And that’s the approach that I chose in this – in this arena. So to me, I don’t think there was one seminal point in my career that changed it as much as the accumulation. And it takes time. And it takes experience.
And it – but I was blessed that I was – I had a very varied experience. I had some great leaders through my time, both here in the U.S., in Canada and also in Europe. And it’s the ability to put it all together – remember it, put it all together, and see what works, and what doesn’t, discard it along the way and remain agile. And you build as you go along.
MR. PAVEL: General, let me just follow up and try to connect the last two questions, because, I mean, the question before last is critical for current discussions about what’s going on in Syria. Why did Russia veto the U.N. Security Council resolution? Some say it was because of being burned on the Libya operation going well beyond what they thought the U.N. resolution allowed. So if you could talk a little bit more about your guidance, what targets you left out not for ancillary reasons, but for reasons that you thought perhaps it went beyond the mandate. I mean, how did you distinguish between protecting civilians and sort of hampering the regime that was actually killing the civilians? It’s a very fine line. I mean, in your position it would be very difficult, especially with the whole coalition breathing down your neck, working back with NATO Headquarters, so much political pressure because of the geopolitical implications. Could you talk a little bit about that?
GEN. BOUCHARD: Probably the biggest point was much like – I like analogies; I guess it’s easier for me to understand things – you know, keep your eyes on the ball, stay focused on the mission itself. And clearly, you’ve got to understand that linkage that exists between what is the mission that needs to be done and what is ancillary to this and what is not related to this.
In our case also, we did not engage into – we did not engage into regime change. This was not about that at all. It was to stop the violence against people. So if – just because a target would or we would be aware of certain presence of individuals but they were not related to the protection of civilians, we did not – we did not engage. And we had to – to make sure that we stayed within the mandate, was this – I don’t want to say rigid, but it isn’t – but this application of power, again, of very set standards that we’ve set for ourselves. And we set some very high standards that we wanted to stay with that, because it was critical.
While I understand that some nations have decided or some countries have decided that whether we were or were not within the mandate is their point, I’m satisfied that we stayed within the mandate. And through the communications we had with the North Atlantic Council, it was clear that we were within the mandate. And that’s that communication as well and explaining what we are doing along the way. And I’m not talking about here about seeking permission for anything as much as in keeping them informed, taking the right action for the right reason and then to – but doing it when it’s needed and not doing it. And sometimes that’s the difficult part – it’s not to do something; it’s to opt not to do something, trying to understand what will be the impact of that. And we’ve alluded to that before, where it’s courageous restraint. It’s to restrain yourself to that mission and to stick to that objective and the missions we’re given and the effects we wanted to accomplish.
Regrettably, there’s no – there’s no easy solution on that to me, other than analyze it and spending a lot of time looking at maps and talking with your adviser and developing the process together. And this process did not really exist, because a lot of the NATO processes were based on a different environment. We looked at Iraq. We looked at Bosnia. We looked at the Balkans. We looked at Afghanistan. And we said, OK, what is it that I can apply from there as well to the concept that – of protecting those civilians back? But stay focused on that part and don’t stray. Don’t take the easy way out. Don’t stray on it.
MR. PAVEL: Yes, a question in the far back.
Q: Hi, Jeremy Hodge from the Middle East Institute. I was just wondering if you could speak a little bit more on what NATO’s role was after the fall of Tripoli, especially when Gadhafi’s forces were limited to Bani Walid and Sirte and Subha (ph). And the TNC was much more on the offensive than it had been previously. How did NATO’s role change during that time? Did you guys coordinate with the TNC with regards to protecting civilians in a more advisory role, as opposed to taking more – or practical actions or – I was just wondering what your specific role was in that.
GEN. BOUCHARD: Even after the fall of Tripoli, the threat against civilian population continues. In Sirte, people were still being killed in Bani Walid, as I stated before. So the threat continued. But one of the point that we discovered is, as the hunter became – stop hunting, if you wish, our approach to it as well – once the civilians were not dying, we pulled back. We stopped doing some of the engagement that we did, and we pulled back and more watch – over watch the situation and make sure that nothing could come in to start this situation again. We didn’t – we were not coordinated with the NTC.
Our actions were not coordinated with the NTC. It was not in my mandate, and our mandate remained the protection of civilians. But one thing we made sure that it was passed through the TNC was that – remember, protecting civilian applies to everybody. So if you turn the table on each other, you will also be accountable for this. And you will act against my mandate of the protection of civilians. So we made sure also this was clearly understood.
So we did pull back. We weren’t as active. And we watched as the situation developed, and we took action where we thought civilians were in danger or there were a group preparing to attack civilians. But we were not as active as we were. We took also an over-watch position to look at it, but also ensure that what applied, it applied on both side and not just one side.
MR. PAVEL: Yes, Fred Kempe in the front row.
MR. KEMPE: General, thank you very much for that excellent presentation and for joining us at the Atlantic Council. Two related questions. One is: Couldn’t one argue – and why doesn’t one argue – that the ultimate responsibility to protect civilians, in a situation where a dictator is leading a regime to kill them, is regime change? We seem to be dancing around this. So is that not part of the responsibility to protect? And how did you interpret that, and how – what kind of discussions were there about that?
Related – were there not a Russian and Chinese veto at the Security Council, if that had not come about and you were tasked with a responsibility-to-protect chore for Syria, what questions would you be asking from your – from the experience that you’ve had in Libya?
GEN. BOUCHARD: Thank you. Both interesting. The first one, the regime change – it’s been a discussion all along. But really what – my sense and my understanding of the situation – the world wanted this dictator to stop killing his people. His people wanted democracy, wanted to establish themselves in this – in a different approach. And the world said, your actions of killing your people – women and children – is not an acceptable point, so stop.
There were some out – exits ramp for this regime, if this regime had chosen. This regime could have chosen to stop the violence and sit down. In fact, we talked in the early days of creating an environment for diplomacy and dialogue to take place, so that we can find a way out of this without having to resort to kinetic actions. So there were some movements available and some room to maneuver. But the regime insisted, until its last possible moment, to inflict casualties.
I think the regime was – misunderstood the situation, misread the situation completely, and thought in fact they were still – they were still winning. I think some of their own processes and intelligence network may not have been as strong. And I don’t think people were telling Gadhafi himself the truth in many ways. So he continued till the end.
And it’s regrettable, because at the end of the day the mission was to stop the violence. So I understand what you’re saying, and I guess you could paraphrase it by saying, you know: regime collapse if necessary, but not necessarily regime collapse, in terms of accomplishing the effects that we set to do.
Regards to a potential – a new environment, from my perspective, as I – as I look at it, there are various aspect of it that I would consider. And the first one, of course, is we found our international legitimacy through the U.N. – United Nations Security Council. And I think it’s important to have this international legitimacy that says: The world does not agree. And the world is in agreement; this behavior must stop.
Obviously it finds its root in the U.N. as it is. But there – but it’s not necessarily the U.N. Each country, as a sovereign nation, has the right to take action as they deem appropriate to stop what it believe is an event that must take place – a breach in international law and the law of armed conflicts, for example.
But I’m leading to my second point, which is if we get this international legitimacy and accept that the nations of the world do not – do not believe that the actions of one should continue, then you must find a group that will do it. Who will you task? Who will take the lead to bring an end to this, through either kinetic or nonkinetic methods and military methods? In this case, NATO is a place to – that offers that.
Outside NATO – if not NATO, then what? Well, we’ve seen coalition of the willing led by the U.S., where the U.S. has taken the lead and worked it. But I think the alliance offers you a different – a different solution. It offers a solution where, as I said, we can share risk and share responsibilities more equally. I think Secretary Gates and Secretary Panetta and indeed Secretary Clinton have all talked about being more inclusive, and increasing everybody’s participation, and thus burden-sharing as well – improving and increasing burden-sharing.
But – and to do that for 28 nations in NATO, I think international legitimacy is probably a requirement to bring those 28 nations together. It’s either that or a sufficiently heinous act that will – that will trigger 28 nations and partners to do that. So legitimacy, NATO, and how does – can we get NATO to operate together?
But I talked about also “and partners,” because then regional – a regional balance, I think, is – or a regional support is important. In a case of Libya, we had three Arab nations. Sweden joined us. And we had of course the NATO nations. Surrounding it, there were some – the region itself was stable enough in perspective, in relation to others, for us to continue.
When we look at Syria, I think we look at a much different – much more complex situation, where it – it’s next to one of the NATO member, Turkey. It is – it borders on Israel; there’s a direct link with Iran; there’s a direct link with Hezbollah. So it – the complexity of this operation becomes much more difficult.
So – and these are all aspect. And the final point, very early in the campaign and in the process, the world – the U.N. recognized the TNC as the legitimate authority in Libya. Do we have such recognition of a new leadership of a country that exists in Syria? And I’m not sure if it’s in place yet. So there are various factors, and I think each of them must be considered.
And also, dare I say, the point is that where we did this mission, and people will say – will wonder, well, you did it without NATO boots on the ground. Could we do the same somewhere else? Well, I think the military commander will do his estimate – the military commander given this task will do his estimate. And it may – it will likely be – it will be a different outcome. It will be a different force structure. And at – and these days, it – will it be an acceptable force structures to do this or is diplomacy another way to solve this problem?
So there are various factors which I offer to you that I would certainly consider. And each of these needs to be looked at in depth and understanding. And I think we need to look also at our own internal – we, the NATO nation – our own internal financial situation, political situations, which will force various decision making. The difficult part is acknowledging that there are people suffering. But what is the cost? What are the risks associated? And will trying to – will you reach a tactical solution that is strategic – which will trigger a strategic failure?
In the case of Libya, we were able to accomplish both strategic and tactical objectives and success. But would a direct engagement with Syria cause the same? And I’m not advocating either way; I’m just saying, these are all factors that we must carefully analyze before a final decision is made.
MR. PAVEL: That was an excellent answer to a very difficult question that we’re all struggling with. So, appreciate it. Any other questions from the audience before I ask my fourth question? Yes, in the back.
Q: Thank you, General. Paul Koring with the Globe and Mail. How are you? Good to see you. The – you have talked at great length about the evenhandedness of the NATO forces in the protection of civilians. Could you address the issue of evenhandedness in terms of the arms embargo? Because we seem, at least post facto, to have evidence that some coalition members, some NATO members, were involved in the provision of weapons to opposition forces during the conflict.
GEN. BOUCHARD: Difficult situation, difficult question. And really, when you look at it, the NATO mission was given its task, and we continued with that. But in many ways, parallel to whatever NATO will be doing, nations have got their own rights to do certain actions that may not necessarily be shared with the alliance itself. And various nations will decide that; it’s their sovereign right to take certain decisions as they go in.
From our perspective, we enforced the embargo with the knowledge that we had and the information that was given to us. And from there, we accepted information that was given to us that would either enable safe passage or allow safe passage, as each nation would provide us – would provide us the information. I think though, also, the essence of it was to make sure that – I think it’s a two-way street. No more weapons were coming in that would end up in the hands of regime forces that would end up killing civilians. So you go back again to linkages to protecting the population.
And the other part was to – ensuring, where at all possible, that some of these weapons were not finding their way out into another theater somewhere. Now remember, though, that this was an air and maritime embargo, not an embargo on the land area, which we could not – we didn’t have the force structure to cover. So again, it’s a balance here. And – but again, the linkage has to go back to – against the population – civilian population. And this is what we use as a benchmark.
MR. PAVEL: Yes, Marten van Heuven.
Q: Hi. My name is Marten van Heuven. General, how did you handle the daily requirements of public affairs?
GEN. BOUCHARD: The – pretty easy: Tell the truth, tell the facts and stick to it. The one thing right from the beginning we would – we – I saw Moussa Ibrahim, for example, on the regime side, give his side of the story. And their side of the story was given for us was we would not get into this tit-for-tat or, they said this and we don’t agree with it.
Our view was to publish or to provide a report on our daily activity; provide the information that we had; stick to the fact; and do not make any judgment on anybody else. I believe it’s important – that point was important to us. So we stuck to the message. It was important also we understood that the world was listening. The Libyans were listening. The regime forces was listening.
So what were those key messages that were important to make sure that we reassured some, that we would try to have others understand that their activity was immoral and illegal and unethical and that we would not stand for that, and we would continue to protect the population? So the key messaging were very much – were factual. And our activities were factual. And if we did something that doesn’t go well, you stand up and explain that as well; don’t try to hide it. Just stand up and face the fact.
For NATO, for our mission, every activity – every bomb or every naval activity did not have a national flag on it. It was a NATO event; it was a NATO mission. And we provided that information to people. I think that eventually we – I tell people that, you know, your credibility in front of the media is all you’ve got. And if you lose that credibility, it’s, once lost, very difficult to find again. So let’s work at not losing it. And the best way not to lose it is to stick to the facts, tell the truth, and then move on with that. And very – probably oversimplified a very complex issue, but to me was the approach that we took.
MR. PAVEL: General, if I could follow up, because I was taken by your comment in your remarks that 50 percent of the campaign was strategic communications. So a couple of sort of related follow-up questions – sort of did you have a strategic communications campaign plan that sort of struck certain themes as events unfolded? And so in addition to just sort of hitting on the facts, was there sort of an arc of your story that you wanted to make sure got out so that, as you said, you win the hearts and minds of the Libyan people from the very beginning and don’t have to fight an uphill battle?
GEN. BOUCHARD: Well, it was important for us – for the people of Libya to understand clearly why we were there, and we were there to protect civilians; and that we would work hard at that and we did that. It was also – we wanted to make it clear to others that what they were doing was not acceptable to the world, and their behavior was not acceptable. And in fact, if we could convince some to put their weapons down and walk out, which we did – we had several defections in various places in the country.
And these defections were not covered that widely by the – by the media. But for us, we saw those defections take place, which was feedback that – because by and large, I do believe that, by and large, the Libyan regime forces did not want to kill civilians. They didn’t want to kill other Libyans. But, you know, they’re stuck between having to do this act or be killed yourself, because many were killed.
And then the other angle was the mercenaries themselves, because they do it for a different reason. And also, it’s important that the world knew what we were doing, clearly understood what we were doing, and – because after all, those 28 nations and the people and the governments of those 28 nations are those people that we were accountable to through the North Atlantic Council.
So it’s – the messaging is important, is what are those key messages? And do you pass them to the right audiences and work together? And obviously, the solution of choice is nonkinetic – to accomplish this, if you can do it without dropping one bomb, the better you will be – but also understanding in there that diplomacy took place, and each nations also was running its own diplomatic campaign on various elements as well and understanding on this end in that part.
MR. PAVEL: Thank you.
Other questions? We have time for one more. Yes?
Q: Gorge Benitez, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. Recently at NATO’s meeting of defense ministers, Panetta and Rasmussen both highlighted NATO’s Response Force as one of NATO’s key answers to the age of austerity and how NATO can do more with less, how it can protect key NATO capabilities from defense cuts. However, in NATO’s largest mission, Afghanistan, NATO’s response force was not used. In NATO’s most recent mission, Libya, NATO’s Response Force was not used.
As commander of one of the most successful operations in NATO’s history, is NATO’s response force a luxury vehicle that will never leave the garage and will never be driven? Or under what circumstances will NATO’s Response Force be used? What type of missions will it justify the investment of resources it is receiving? Thank you.
GEN. BOUCHARD: Probably the first answer is the easiest one; the second one’s a little more complicated. But still both of them – is NATO’s Response Force a luxury vehicle? I don’t think so. Before – (audio break) – before being tasked with this operation, in fact, I spent a year training with the NATO Response Force. In fact, I was – I was appointed as the commander for training of the NATO Response Force.
So we worked together and developed relationships, and we raised the quality and the ability of each of these groups of people and these components to work together. The air component for the mission was also the air component for the NATO Response Force. So they were trained, ready to go and we worked it. Whether it’s used in whole or in part becomes an interesting point but also becomes a political issue, because each nation will, again, decide whether their forces will be used in the manner in which they will authorize us to do.
So to me, it’s not whether we use the whole thing, it’s whether the force that we have is an able force, is a trained force, it’s a ready force, and whether it can be used in whole or in part to create a workable organization. They’re both fine to me. So there is value on both end of it. And as far as the last point though, when – what will be the trigger or what will be the conditions under which the NRF would be used?
Well, I would think in – first of all, the NAC will always decide that. The nations will decide that. I would think that Article V would probably be the guiding factor into the deployment of the NATO Response Force, because that’s what it was created for. Anything beyond that, then we’ll have to have political directions from the NAC and through the NAC to SACEUR in its decision to engage in whole or in part the force.
But at the end of the day, many of the folks that came in were actually trained during the NATO Response Force training phase and certification. And I think certainly it was no waste of time, because these folks would come back and be ready to operate.
MR. PAVEL: Well, General, I think we’re out of time. On behalf of the Atlantic Council, thank you very much for your remarks here. You have a very important story to tell that is directly relevant to our ongoing debates. And we just thank you for choosing the Atlantic Council to begin to tell your story. So thank you very much.