James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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Is NATO Escalating Its Commitment in Libya?

by James M. Lindsay
April 21, 2011

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy shakes hands with Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the main Libyan rebel council, as he leaves the Elysee Palace on April 20, 2011. (Philippe Wojazer/courtesy Reuters)

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy shakes hands with Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the main Libyan rebel council, as he leaves the Elysee Palace on April 20, 2011. (Philippe Wojazer/courtesy Reuters)

I have a new piece up over at CNN.com’s “Global Public Square” on the strategic incoherence of NATO’s policy in Libya. The upshot: The announcements this week that Britain, France, and Italy will send military advisers to Benghazi do not signal a significant escalation in the West’s involvement in Libya. The number of advisers is too small to make a difference, and even the best advisers can’t conjure up an effective army over night. So ignore the talk about Vietnam redux.

I am left wondering, however, what the Washington-London-Paris strategy is for prevailing in Libya. They seemingly have ruled out both lowering their aims and substantially increasing their commitment. Why then would the status quo change? Are they prepared for a protracted civil war? Does the off-the-record speculation about which countries might offer asylum to Qaddafi reflect real back channel negotiations or wishful thinking? Is the idea to use a well-placed drone strike to end things quickly? Perhaps a clandestine operation is in the offing?

So a question to all of you: What do you think the Obama administration’s strategy is?

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