Archive for March 10, 2011

AFRICA: NATO Weighing a Libyan No Fly Zone (UPDATE)

No Fly Zone: Pros and Cons Debated

The clamor is growing in Washington and Europe to impose some sort of No Fly Zone over Libya to protect rebels and civilians from Muammar Qaddafi’s attack aircraft and bombers.

But there are still plenty of people in the Obama administration advising a “Go slow” policy.

Map: CIA World Factbook

At a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said NATO military planning “will continue … but that’s the extent of it with respct to a No Fly Zone.”

At two different Senate Armed Services Committee hearings this week, Sens. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) pressed U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Intelligennce officials about the feasibility of a No Fly Zone.

McCain worried about what U.S. inaction on Libya would do to “America’s credibility and moral standing.” Lieberman said neither he nor others favoring a No Fly Zone “is talking about on-the-ground intervention”

Like the Defense Secretary told a different congressional committee earlier, Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, cautioned that coalition aircraft would have to take out Qaddafi’s air defense systems of fighters, anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missiles — in effect, an act of war — before the No Fly rules could be enforced.

Today, McCain noted that France has recognized the rebel coalition in Benghazi as the official Libyan government and Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, head of U.S. Joint Forces Command, says the military could implement a No Fly Zone “within a couple of days.”

But James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, told the Senate panel that he was reluctant to go along with that assessmernt, adding that over the long term, the weaponry and organization Qaddafi has at his disposal means the regime probably “will prevail.”

That comment sent White House officials scrambling to shore up the message that the Obama administration still favors the departure of Qaddafi, who has ruled the oil rich North African state for more than 40 years.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she will meet with representatives of the Libyan opposition during visits next week to Egypt and Tunisia but saidthe State Department was also vetting members of the opposition. “We know there are people we want to be associated with; we know there are people we don’t want to be associated with,” she told a separate congressional hearing.

Meanwhile, a number of retired senior Air Force officers have been lobbying Congress with the message that more hearings should be held on the feasability of an air blockade, Dave Fulghum reports at the ARES blog. Those officers complain that the naysayers in the Pentagon don’t have the aviation experience to make such a call.

On Wednesday night at a Capitol Hill gathering to promote a book on reforming defense budget excesses, several Pentagon old hands said the concerns about Libyan air defenses were “total nonsense.”

“What they’ve got is a joke,” said Pierre Sprey, a concept designer of the F-16 fighter and A-10 attack plane. The limited capabilities of Libyan SA-6 surface-to-air missiles means attacking the whole air defense systems is unnecessary.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks following the first session of a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium. (Defense Dept. photo by Cherie Cullen)

At the NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels, “We all agreed that NATO will only act if there is demonstrable need, a sound legal basis, and strong regional support.  We also agreed to continue planning for all military options.” Gates said.

March 10, 2011 at 11:54 pm 1 comment

SHAKO: Remember the Alamo

Well, almost …

O.K. the 175th anniversary of the fall of the Alamo was Sunday March 6. So we didn’t exactly remember it on time. We’re like that with relatives’ birthdays, too.

But we do want to remind readers that this year marks the Sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the firing on Fort Sumter (April 12) and the start of at least four years’ commemorations of the Civil War (1861-1865). We imagine we’ll be hearing a lot over the next four years about Grant, Lee, Lincoln, Jeff Davis, Gettysburg, Shiloh, the Emancipation Proclamation, Appomattox Court House and Juneteenth.

We also expect to hear about the technological breakthroughs that came during that conflict: telegraph communication, troop transport by rail, one of the first submarines, observation balloons, land mines and the machine gun.

By April or May 2015, most Americans may have grown tired of the War Between the States. We’ll be getting a lot of it here in the Greater Washington area — the scene of much Civil War drama on and off the battlefield.

But let’s hope the anniversaries of two other conflicts don’t get lost in the blue and gray mania. Starting next year will be the bicentennial of the War of 1812 (through January of 2015, don’t forget the Battle of New Orleans). Maryland, the home of the Star Spangled Banner, isn’t about to let you forget it (see photo below):

And July 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the War to End All Wars (Yeah, right) — World War I (1914-1918).  Britain, France and Germany will probably have a lot to say about that.

The second decade of the 19th and 20th were very interesting times, as they say.

Let us know about any significant commemorations we’ve left out or any truly unique celebrations of these historic events in your part of the world.

Just drop us a line at:

4gwar@gmail.com

and let us know if we can post it here at the Shako.

March 10, 2011 at 12:31 am 1 comment


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