But unlike recent coalition campaigns in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, Libya is different. This time, Mr Obama and his generals can't wait for the opportunity to hand over responsibility for the mission to someone else. As one senior US officer told me yesterday: "The Europeans wanted the no-fly zone; so the Europeans can command the no-fly zone."Right, so the French will now take over and run the whole campaign, preferably with their own and Italy's servicemen and women. After all, they are the two countries that will be most affected if chaos in Libya carries on. Sadly, that looks like another Tale of Porcine Aviation.
The only problem with this neat solution is that, as is so often the case when dealing with a major security issue, "the Europeans" just can't agree on how the command structure should be run.
For a start, not all European leaders supported the establishment of a no-fly zone in the first place. Military intervention was very much the brainchild of David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, rather than a dreaded EU initiative. The ineffectual Baroness Ashton, the EU's foreign affairs guru, displayed her diplomatic naivety when she sided with the Germans in opposing a no-fly zone.
Tensions have even surfaced between London and Paris after the French, with characteristic bravado, launched the first air attacks against Gaddafi's forces on Saturday afternoon without bothering to inform their Nato allies. But then the French have always had a problem with taking orders from American generals, whatever Mr Sarkozy says about overcoming France's historic ambivalence for Nato's command structures.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Con Coughlin is unimpressed by the Libyan adventure. In particular, he points out, the Americans do not want this war but are doing the lion's share of the operations; they want to hand control over to the Europeans who are suddenly not available.