Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A rule of thumb that is wrong

You know the old saying from the Middle East:

'The enemy of my enemy is my friend'.


It is pretty straightforward that the people vexing your enemy are helping you, right?  Really you need to support that, don't you?

Unfortunately they aren't 'on your side' as they are going after their own cause and agenda and not yours, so while the vexation may be fun to watch, these doing the vexing are in no way, shape or form a 'friend' to you.


Now logically stated is the following:

The enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy.

This one is not only correct but has a corollary to it on what the strategy is for your enemy and his enemy:

Let's you and him fight.

This is the happy strategy of minor nations throughout history that have two major nations lusting after wealth, territory, and other things tangible or intangible in the minor nation.  This was done by Vienna during the two Ottoman invasions that threatened the city.  Since the local military was dwarfed by the incoming Ottoman armies, the plea to get a larger, regional power to defend Vienna went out.  Poland was a relatively large power for that era, as the area we call Germany was still a lot of squabbling Principalities, and while the Poles may not have had any great affection for the Viennese, they knew that if the Ottomans got Vienna they would be able to stage attacks to devour the Germanic Principalities and actually threaten Poland.

Poland changed that around in the 1920's and got defensive alliances with France and the UK against Germany, so that if Poland was invaded then France and the UK would have to bail her out.  Germany used a hoax to make it look like Poland had attacked Germany, but no one as fooled by that and the invasion of Poland started the official start of WWII, since fighting between Japan and China had been ongoing for years, by then, and Japan as an ally of Germany the attack got a globe spanning war.  This is the diplomatic variation of 'Let's you and him fight' as the Polish army and defenses were sub-par to say the least so that horse mounted cavalry had to face off against tanks.

The US used a version of this in the Iran/Iraq war of the early 1980's, by supplying both sides of the fight with arms: Iraq openly, although not with a lot of material, and Iran clandestinely in the Iran/Contra deal which saw a limited amount of very effective weapons against tanks get sent to Iran which had very little in its arsenal to compare to them.  Henry Kissinger summed it up as a war in which we wished both sides would lose.  That is one of the most quintessential variants of 'Let's you and him fight' that has been seen in the modern era.

So, if applied to a present-day case, like Libya, what would the response of the US be to rebels going against He Who's Name Can't Be Spelled Correctly?

The first few days of dithering is indicative of having no policy for such events when our enemies are attacked by their enemies.  The old Bush Doctrine was that we were the supporters of those seeking 'democracy' in the Middle East, but that was not immediately deployed.  Instead the idea of wanting 'regime change' in Libya was used when it looked like the rebels were going to win the thing.  The President said that He Who's Name Can't Be Spelled Correctly must go.

Ok, good enough on the old sorts of concepts: we didn't like the guy and would like to see him gone.

Then the Carter Doctrine of 'dithering' was deployed.

He Who's Name Can't Be Spelled Correctly rallied his supporters, paid off lots of mercenaries and thugs to fight for him, started bombing anyone in rebel held cities and generally was acting the part of a brutal dictator... because he IS a brutal dictator.

At that point the US has a wide array of options.

- We can say that the leader of Libya had ordered attacks under no auspices of normal Nation State war against US military personnel in Germany (plus German civilians) and had taken down a US commercial aircraft over Lockerbie, Scotland which was an act of Piracy, as Congress has extended the coverage of the Laws of the Sea to US commercial air carriers.  We could point out that US policy has not embraced Libya's leader, that we have not forgiven him and that he was no longer seen as a valid leader of any Nation but a Pirate with a Piratical State under his control and that we considered him and any cronies still with him and supporting him to be Pirates.  That there was no government of Libya that we recognized and would welcome people in Libya to form an interim government that we could help.

- We could use our clandestine offices to try and get a hit squad into Libya as we no longer saw the Unspellable One's rule as legitimate and that he was a threat to us and had attacked us in the past.  He wanted personal war, and we are obliging.

- We could seek the help of regime personnel who had fled after the rebels started their campaign, put a 'government in exile' together with a very sketchy constitution or other ruling document, hire some mercenaries to help them get those who wanted to fight in shape, and landed a government with tiny force to broker with the rebels to bring them into an official government fold.

These are effective ways to deal with such threats from official delegitimization of the current regime to a bit of clandestine work to get rid of the lynch pin of the regime, its leader, all the way to doing the old fashioned 'right thing' and getting a real government of ex-government officials together, giving them some backing and getting them on the ground so that there would be an official group to then plea for military and commercial aid.

See how that works?

What did we do?

We froze the leader's bank accounts.  About $30 billion in cash in the US.

We looked for a 'blockade'.  How that would work with wanting to supply rebels and such makes your guess as good as mine.  Blockades have timetables of years to decades, not hours to months, to have an effect, by the way.

We thought about a No Fly Zone, passed on that until the French and UK got together on it to 'protect the rebels' and also to stop any damage to the oilfields in Libya.  If you did the first you could get some help on the second, so we decided to join up!  Then we would lead!  Then we wouldn't lead!  It was multinational!  We were going to do it all!  We were going to hand it all off to some political talking group!  Then we would hand it off to NATO!  We were only taking out regime air assets, save for the tanks and such we started to go after as a 'coalition'.

This is not a 'doctrine': it is incoherent.

The address the President gave last night is not a doctrine, either, it is a mixture of statements and feel good phrases that are meant to be applied everywhere, but only really apply to Libya, unless they don't apply at all.  It isn't being applied to the similar circumstances in: Ivory Coast, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Jordan, and even the uprisings in China, come to that.

In theory all we want is the Unspellable One out of power, perhaps with a nice permanent vacation in Venezuela, Land of the Tyrants.

With announcements that al Qaeda is part and parcel of the rebels, with a leader who actually fought against the US in Afghanistan, we now know that we have two enemies fighting each other in Libya.  Something we should have gotten word about from our ever less-than-capable INTEL Community, say, about 3-5 days into things, not 3-4 weeks later and only then by the actual leader's own transmissions.

What was the right strategy that anyone, with an ounce of sense in their heads, could see when our enemy has an unknown enemy that really isn't seeking big favors and promises us NOTHING if we help?

Do we even have a dog in that fight?  Mind you that is way, way, way before the revel leader announced he was trained in Libya to fight for al Qaeda against the US and Coalition Forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  Just taken on purely face value, with the knowns of the time, do we really want to support the enemy of our enemy if they have given no indication of how they feel towards us?  It is possible to get worse than the Unspellable One, you know?  The current regime in Iran points to that.  As did Saddam Hussein.  And the Magical Kingdom of Mr. Kim in NoKo.  The Congo.  Somalia. Parts of Detroit and Chicago.

When your enemy has an enemy, and he has not said anything about being friendly to you, then he is just your enemy's enemy.

They really should fight it out amongst themselves.

That is not 'isolationism' but pure, unadulterated common sense.

Let's you and him fight.  We will figure out what to do once you two have gotten things settled. 

We might even send arms to both sides if we find them both hostile to us... stranger things are happening, you know?

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