Libya Model for Syria?

One of the drawbacks of NATO’s air intervention in Libya in 2011 is that it helped provide victory to a fractious coalition with elements whose interests don’t line up with those of the United States, according to panelists at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday. The same problem would attend any air intervention in Syria, they asserted. Karl Mueller of RAND said US-led Operation Odyssey Dawn and the subsequent NATO-led Operation Unified Protector offered a way to allow “a Libyan victory”—one seemingly not handed over by outside elements, thus bolstering its credibility—and allowed NATO to “walk away from responsibility for management of a post-Qaddafi Libya,” something important for keeping intervention affordable. However, Christopher Chivvis, also of RAND, noted that helping provide victory to a non-unified coalition paved the way for the “highly fractured security” in Libya today. The use of airpower “indiscriminately” helped these disparate groups, some of which are unfriendly to the West, and gave them an opening to share power in the new government, he said. “If we want to do this again,” said Chivvis, it will be important to “seize the golden moment” after victory is achieved. He also said the fact that the United States was not “out in front” for the bulk of the Libya campaign likely helped promote the “legitimacy” of the new government in Libya. The model is also apparently “repeatable,” given that the United States is helping the Mali operation with airlift and tanking, but France has the lead in kinetic attacks, he said.