Small Wars Journal

US Tactics in Libya May Be a Model for Other Efforts

Mon, 08/29/2011 - 4:20am

US Tactics in Libya May Be a Model for Other Efforts by Helene Cooper and Steven Lee Meyers, New York Times. BLUF:

Administration officials say that even though the NATO intervention in Libya, emphasizing airstrikes to protect civilians, cannot be applied uniformly in other hotspots like Syria, the conflict may, in some important ways, become a model for how the United States wields force in other countries where its interests are threatened.


I love these types of articles. Like a newsreader portraying themselves as an expert on any specialist topic they choose merely because they read the news. Yet its the advisors and think-tank strategists that should be far more emphatic in their statements that Libya is NOT a template for Syria or other scenarios.

The commentary in the article does not portray very sophisticated thinking - more like trial and error. Now whether we are in the field the or back at the desk we appreciate the path to successin these types of environments and IW campaigns takes many twists and turns. But we need direction that is unequivocal in public statements that removes the ability to make wild generalisations.

Each current and future IW campaign requires a unique assessment and intervention. Sure there are lessons from past campaigns. Those lessons need to be understood to determine if they worked only in THAT ENVIRONMENT or can they be applied in any environment. There are some human motivations that are universal - such as the drive to protect ones family and property, to stay alive etc Yet we walk a very dangerous path to think that Libya offers a model for the future from the perspective of a broader military strategy for US policy.

Stop linking Libya and Syria. It is completely different on so many levels that should be obvious to SWJ readers and contributors.



Mon, 08/29/2011 - 12:08pm

In reply to by KevinH

Good point Kevin, anyone care to post our Nation's desired end-state for Libya? Anyone remember Iraq? Anyone want to venture on a possible less-than stable environment in the next several weeks as the "winning" rebel coalition fragments and positions for exclusive power? How about expectation management on part of the Libyan people? We say no Western ground forces but the lack of enough to fill the vacuum in Iraq contributed to the chaos there. Maybe it will all be okay, fingers crossed, but we should not be claiming victory yet. The game is nine innings and we are at about the top of the fourth (with nod to General Tony Zinni concerning the metaphor).

Libya's not done. How can we be learning the right lessons yet?

Dave Maxwell

Mon, 08/29/2011 - 10:12am

Have to love these editors: Are they talking about tactics, strategy, principles, doctrine or a model?
And by all means let's see if this applies to Syria. Somehow, I think there could be some 2d and 3d order effects if these tactics or strategy or principles or doctrine or model were tried in Syria. But if they worked "once" they should work every time (or so we hope) as we are really on our quest for the Silver Bullet or Holy Grail of foreign policy and national security strategy.