Tag Archives: NATO

Political Creep

Recently, military men and politicians have been talking about “mission creep” in Libya. There is a certain  inevitability about conflict escalation, yet in spite of tons of historical evidence, politicians ignore the phenomenon – at their peril. Mission Creep occurs when an invading power has only ONE overriding objective. It begins immediately after it has taken that first stride towards its military goal.

That first step is followed by a series of incremental shuffles which are driven by the failure to secure an early result. In Libya, warnings to Gaddafi were superseded by a “no-fly” zone, then bombing, then military advisors, then the deployment of helicopters, then the supply of arms to the rebels. As soon as the first NATO helicopter is shot-down and Gaddafi holds a few NATO hostages, the next step will be justified. “The situation has changed” reasoning will be deployed.

A single focus on just ONE end-game results in the protagonist doing anything to achieve his ambition because politico-military “tunnel vision” kicks-in. Western politicians believe that they have painted Gaddafi into a corner but in having done so, their inflexibility has meant that they have done exactly the same to themselves.

NATO views the Libyan end-game in very simple terms –  a dead Gaddafi. Some may say that there’s nothing wrong with that very laudable ambition but there are alternatives. There are always alternatives.

Meanwhile, Gaddafi’s focus is equally intense – to stay alive. The “big picture”, i.e Libya’s future is largely ignored because there is a dictator to be killed.

President Obama has been advised by his own people to “back off”  in order to allow minnows such as the United Kingdom and France take the lead in the Libyan “mission”. Why? Obama is essentially a man of peace and he knows  that there are alternative end-games in Libya but it is not politically expedient for him to explore the other options. His and the American government’s stance is further driven by public opinion and the rather flaky state of the US economy as well as the relative unimportance of Libya as a strategic jumping-off point.

Nevertheless, cigar-chomping generals are in the driving seat – and once they have a taste of blood, they are notoriously difficult to control. They do NOT understand the concept of  “reverse gear”.

European jets and helicopters are busy dropping explosives over Libya with an abnormal concentration having been dropped on Tripoli – specifically in the vicinity of   Gaddafi’s compound – all in the name of peace and protection of civilians.

Their lack of success and  increasing frustration caused by the failure of  their “Kill Gaddafi” objective will create battlefield escalation and a constant reinterpretation of UN Resolution 1973.  That means that the military invasion of Libya is a forgone conclusion. It is merely a matter of “when” and not “if”.

Gaddafi the Dictator-King

Muammar Gaddafi has probably been studied by the West more than any other post-war leader, yet, judging by the way that he is being treated by the anti Gaddafi, pro-rebel Coalition, it is plain to see that to them,  he is still an enigma.

Over the years, I have had contact with many corporate dictators and the behaviours which they exhibit bear a striking resemblance to those of Gaddafi and the only other comparable despot within the last few years – Saddam Hussein. One thing that I can report with certainty: they cannot be changed. Their behaviours are hard-wired.

Dictators rule by fear but ironically, they themselves are ruled by their own fears. Outwardly, they appear to have developed the symptoms of paranoia and as their career progresses, they believe (quite rightly) that there are fewer and fewer people that they can trust. Those feelings of universal mistrust eventually put them onto a self-destructive path which always leads to either their death or foreign exile. There is NO retirement home for them!

Gaddafi probably employs food tasters, doubles, sleeps at numerous locations and has all visitors searched. He definitely sleeps with a gun under his pillow because he constantly senses that it is only a matter of time before he is assassinated.

A dictator will do ANYTHING to remain in power – even if it means a diminution is status and financial or power-deals with the opposition. The overriding aspect and driving force of the dictator’s existence is POWER and its trappings. Too often, a dictator gives the impression of a messianic complex but in reality, compromise and compliance are often not too deep beneath the surface – if approached correctly. Having said that, they often genuinely do believe that they are on a divine mission. That belief can be so fundamental to the dictator’s makeup that  they are willing to sacrifice themselves in order to preserve their legacy for their descendants.

Whenever the West is upset by a dictator – even a benevolent one, they begin to think “regime change ” and “democracy”. The propaganda machine grinds into gear and soon the stock phrases are deployed: “massive violence”, “murdering his own people”, “he’s mad”, “….but he’s a survivor”,  “dangerous if cornered”, “talent for dividing his enemies”, “isolated”, “iron rule” .

Currently, the stock phrases are being applied to Gaddafi but if you think back just a few years, you will recall exactly the same phrases being slung at Saddam Hussein, as they will be to Assad of Syria.

Hitler, Stalin, Saddam, Gaddafi, Nasser and many others all used violence in order to retain power – although they didn’t always kill their enemies. For instance, Saddam would force his enemies to watch videos of their wives being raped or their children tortured. It was rumoured that Idi Amin would cut slices of flesh off his victims or their relatives and eat bits in front of them. Terrorism in its purest form.

Often it is most potent when the victim is not killed but instead given such an appalling story to tell that just hearing the stories keeps others in line.

Middle Eastern dictators are currently in the limelight and their opponents are right to be suspicious of   promises of reform because in spite of the fact that they may introduce superficial reforms, their inability to trust anyone makes it impossible for the dictator to work with anyone else apart from close friends and family.

Arab dictators sincerely believe in the moral weakness of the West and tend to reinforce that belief with demonstrations of their own piety in order to create a religious bond and empathy with their own people. Their belief in the superiority of Arab Civilisation is absolute. They see themselves as warriors defending  not-only their country but their faith against  Crusaders. The same Crusaders who used to  raid their lands every few hundreds of years but who nowadays arrive not-only with increasing regularity but with bigger and more powerful weapons.

Arab dictators such as Gaddafi know that the “soft” West will try to avoid the killing of civilians – hence the concept of the “human shield”. Tanks and guns are secreted in residential areas  in the sure knowledge that NATO will be too squeamish to risk blowing-up “innocent civilians”.

In many ways, fighting a dictator such as Gaddafi is an unequal struggle. He believes that he holds the moral, religious and “terror” aces. The “infidels”, “Americans and their Zionist friends” or just plain NATO are warmongers who are “acting illegally”. He may have a point. Gaddafi’s style of leadership is nothing new. He has been on the throne for 43 years and his current enemies have been perfectly aware of his methods for all of that time. They have known of his involvement in many atrocities – from Lockerbie to the various IRA bombings. Yet, the West tolerated him to such an extent that he became lauded as one who had made such progress that in 1988 he initiated the annual $250,000  Swiss-based  Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights. The first recipient was Nelson Mandela.

Less than one year ago, Libya was elected by a majority of its fellow U.N. members to serve on the United Nations’ Human Rights Council.

No wonder that the man (Gaddafi) feels confused and betrayed.

What he sees is the West siding with a bunch of protesting hooligans and terrorists who have no mandate or alternative to the Gaddafi regime. Protestors who began their campaign as a copycat version of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings and who, by the simple expedient of shouting “democracy and freedom of speech” have managed to persuade NATO to bomb what, until a couple of months ago was a friendly nation.

Many have learned that all they have to shout is “Democracy” and the Americans will come running with the rest of those spoiling for a fight trailing behind them.

Gaddafi knows that when the clarion call “DEMOCRACY!” is shouted loud enough, it distorts during its journey through the ether and take on an altogether different sound:


King Gaddafi and Machtpolitik

What is it about monarchical and family rule that makes it all the rage these days? Single-party regimes seem as common as democracies but their development into  family businesses is a new development – or is it? What has kept these families in power?

The simple answer is geography, massive Western subsidies but mostly – OIL.

Since the discovery of huge volumes of oil in the last 80 years-or-so, formerly impoverished states had the cash to develop huge bureaucracies which were essentially on the ruling  family’s payroll.  Add to that their armed forces and you have an apparently immovable edifice.

Political parties and unions were superfluous because brand new welfare systems and employment created a hitherto unexperienced sense of national pride and well-being. Tribal rivalries were forgotten and in general terms, citizens rubbed along quite nicely.

Initially, the monarchs took on the mantle of modernisers but they also purposely slowed the process down because in reality, they did not particularly want to spend the money. It was all done on a promise which, for a very long time kept the masses under control. That meant that the rulers did not even have to consider involving the people in governance. Whenever  dissent reared its ugly head, promises of political modernisation would be made – but eventually, both the monarchs and their imitators – the commoner dictator-rulers, overplayed their hand. The people began to call their bluffs.

The Monarchs did not claim their kingships by divine right – as is the custom in Western monarchies.  Very few gave themselves the title “King” – Jordan, Morocco and Saudi being the exceptions. The rest used titles which resonated with the locals. They were Sheikhs, Amirs and Imams. Their behaviour, however was strictly that of Kings.

The Kings of Jordan and Morocco claimed direct descendancy of the prophet Muhammad but the others would create their own mystique by a combining claims of noble lineage and (sometimes) mythical, often miltary deeds.

Succession was  by primogeniture. This is a model which has since been adopted by what you might call non-Royal ruler-kings such as Muammar Gaddafi.

In spite of his military posturing, in his mind, Gaddafi sees himself as King of Libya with his firstborn as  natural successor.

Having said that, other Middle Eastern  rulers , for example Saudi Arabia have evolved their laws of succession so that it is not always the first-born who will rule but the ruler’s first “capable” male relative. On that basis, perhaps Gaddafi sees his high-profile son Said as the Crown Prince.

Most Middle Eastern and African “Crown Princes”  are British-trained or educated.

Traditionally, sons and cousins whose destiny  is to rule are given high-ranking military posts or very senior posts in the country’s bureaucracy. They are also funded in order to create their own fortunes.

Wealth-distribution is carefully controlled. Traditionally, the ever-expanding oil income is primarily distributed within the royal family. The powerful and potentially troublesome merchant classes are given more-or-less a free rein to create as much wealth for themselves as they can. In return, they do not become involved in national politics. They are kept sweet.

The only constant cloud on the ruler’s horizon is the relationship with the military. There are two models which have been adopted to prevent military dissent.

The first is to have a small army which is populated by a large number of foreign mercenaries , in other words, those who do not have the faintest interest in the country’s internal politics. This type of army is always commanded by a  relative of the King.

The other method relies wholly on the King’s image and personality – whether he be Royal or aspirational commoner. Quite simply, the ruler is Commander-in-Chief of the military. He is constantly visible and more often than not, dressed as a soldier. Gaddafi was a prime example. 

Psychologically, a soldier finds it easier to pledge himself to an individual rather than to an abstract concept such as a republic. It has to be personal. Even in the United Kingdom, soldiers pledge allegiance to the Monarch. The Monarch always holds a military rank  and the various high-visibility parades, processions and pageants etc always enjoy the Monarch’s patronage and participation – purely to maintain that  bond between soldier and ruler. Soldiers fight – not for their country but for their King.

In preparation for his reign, the Crown Prince will always become an army officer.

Another aspect of a ruler’s legitimacy is delivered by a close tie with the State’s main religion. This bond is reinforced by the royal family’s control of religion through funding and the appointment of clerics and church leaders. This aspect is particularly important in the Arab states.

So , the ruler and his family control the military, the  religion, all of the important Departments of State as well as  the legal system. Often, they are the legal system.

That means that when this type of government collapses, the work needed to rebuild has to be from the  bottom-up. If the ruler is deposed, so is the bureaucracy , together with the legal and  religious structures. It is a total collapse.  The delivery of a few truck-loads of ballot boxes coupled with vague promises of the Nirvana of democracy are never enough.

The gap between an Arab-style Kingdom and a Democracy is vast. Here in the UK, we have a Kindom married to a democracy but this quite unnatural mutation has taken hundreds of years to achieve “Steady State”.

Libya used to be a legitimate Kingdom but troubles began for King Idris soon after the discovery of oil in the 1950s. One of the King’s dissident relatives killed a senior adviser so in retribution, the King “downsized”. He limited the  succession and  deprived many of his relatives of Royal titles. He also became “lazy” and very quickly became less and less apparent to his subjects by not participating in parades and other public performances which are needed to reinforce a king’s legitimacy.

A  Monarch has to show himself to his subjects at appropriate times.

The gradual disassociation from the masses was a great error – an error which would be repeated in the 21st century by the man who deposed him in 1969 – Captain Muammar Gaddafi.

Libyan King Idris failed to exercise control over his relatives who were engaging in the absolute rulers’ offspring favourite  dual sports of corruption and unacceptable behaviour. Another error which was to be repeated by Gaddafi.

In the 1960s, both Americans and British had military bases in Libya. Consequently,  King Idris was perceived as the West’s puppet.  His ties to the West were not approved-of by either his subjects or the military.

Idris paid the price for his lack of control over the military , his relatives’ excesses and his closeness to the Americans and British. In 1969, he was deposed in a Gaddafi-led coup.

Over the last ten years, Colonel Gaddafi has made almost exactly the same mistakes. He has become more and remote from his subjects but as a soldier, has largely managed to retain the trust and allegiance of the military – apart from a few over-ambitious senior officers. 

Gaddafi’s sons have been trained to continue the Gaddafi dynasty and that , in essence, is what Muammar Gaddafi is fighting for. His kids’ inheritance.

While Gaddafi was practicing  Machtpolitik, blowing up planes, selling explosives to the IRA and all the other terrorist atrocities which have been laid at his door, he was perceived by his people as an independent strong leader. His threats to the West allowed him to maintain the myth of the warrior-leader. It was his perceived fearlessness and independence which carried the most currency and kept him in power.

Today he faces a sad but  inevitable closing of the family business.

Like any out-of-touch ruler, he is genuinely surprised and disbelieving of the fact that his subjects are revolting. He is probably offended as well.

His dalliances with Western leaders and apparent mellowing into a Kafkaesque effigy of a world statesman have weakened his grip on the Libyan people.

As NATO-sponsored jets strafe his kingdom, Gaddafi will have one big regret – that he did not pay enough attention to his own country’s recent history.

Libyan Arms-for-Rebels Resolution.




There appears to be a debate as to whether or not UN Resolution 1973 gives the Coalition/NATO etc., currently bombing Libya, the permission to supply arms to Libyan rebels.

The simple answer is “No”.

Below is paragraph 13 from the currently-in-force  UN resolution 1973. This paragraph refers to UN Resolution 1970 (which is also still  in force).

13. Decides that paragraph 11 of resolution 1970 (2011) shall be replaced by the following paragraph : “Calls upon all Member States, in particular States of the region, acting nationally or through regional organisations or arrangements, in order to ensure strict implementation of the arms embargo established by paragraphs 9 and 10 of resolution 1970 (2011), to inspect in their territory, including seaports and airports, and on the high seas, vessels and aircraft bound to or from the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, if the State concerned has information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that the cargo contains items the supply, sale, transfer or export of which is prohibited by paragraphs 9 or 10 of resolution 1970 (2011) as modified by this resolution, including the provision of armed mercenary personnel, calls upon all flag States of such vessels and aircraft to cooperate with such inspections and authorises Member States to use all measures commensurate to the specific circumstances to carry out such inspections”

Please click on the link below. UN Resolution 1970 will  open in a separate window. Paragraph 9 is on Page 3.

UN Resolution 1970-Libya

This is Paragraph 9 of Resolution 1970:

Arms embargo

9. Decides that all Member States shall immediately take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, from or through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, and technical assistance, training, financial or other assistance, related to military activities or the provision, maintenance or use of any arms and related materiel, including the provision of armed mercenary personnel whether or not originating in their territories, and decides further that this measure shall not apply to: 

(a) Supplies of non-lethal military equipment intended solely for humanitarian or protective use, and related technical assistance or training, as approved in advance by the Committee established pursuant to paragraph 24 below  

(b) Protective clothing, including flak jackets and military helmets, temporarily exported to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya by United Nations personnel, representatives of the media and humanitarian and development works and associated personnel, for their personal use only; or 

(c) Other sales or supply of arms and related materiel, or provision of assistance or personnel, as approved in advance by the Committee

There is NO ambiguity in the above Section 9.

If  UN Resolution 1973 needs to be “interpreted” or if there is any ambiguity, there should be a new resolution. If  the USA, United Kingdom and France wish to donate or sell arms to Libyan civilians, they should seek explicit permission .

There have been well-known instances of UN resolutions being “interpreted” by politicians.

The last time this happened, hundreds of thousands of civilians perished in Iraq.

Meanwhile,whether Obama, Cameron and the rest like it or not,  Libya continues to be the subject of an arms embargo.