How does the military feel about Libya?

Under George Bush, our troops were told that they were going to Iraq and Afghanistan to protect American interests.  One can, of course, quibble with whether those wars have served American interests (which is not a quibble I want to have at this post).  But the point I want to make is that our young men and women were told that they were putting their lives on the line for their country.  They were protecting and defending.

In Libya, Defense Secretary Gates has stated explicitly that Libya itself has nothing to do with America’s vital interests, although it’s in a region that is important.  As best as I can tell, he hasn’t taken the next step, which is to say that what happens in Libya, though, will necessarily affect America’s interests in that region.

Obama has come out with a mountain of mush which boils down to a claim that the U.N. thinks this is a good idea for protecting some people in Libya, and we want Qaddafi out of there, although we won’t do anything actually to get him out of there, because that’s not our mission, even though we plan on having him leave.  We’ve since learned that significant sectors amongst the people who want Qaddafi out even more than Obama does — i.e., our allies — are Al Qaeda. For people with long memories, we’re fighting Al Qaeda all over the world, with American troops actively under fire in Afghanistan.

With those thoughts in mind about Libya — it’s an internationalist mission with no clear goals, that doesn’t necessarily benefit America, that sees us helping the same people who are trying to kill our guys in Afghanistan, one has to ask whether American troops have a sense of mission here?  Are they feeling the warm glow of altruistic humanitarians who are in the line of fire for people who have little to do with America and her interests (or are even routinely trying to kill Americans?  Do they have any sense that they are fulfilling their mission to protect and defend” if the people they’re protecting and defending are neither Americans nor American allies?  Or are they simply people who are doing their jobs, without a whole lot of mission analysis?

I’m a highly politicized, conservative, anti-Obama, pro-American, middle-aged armchair warrior.  With that bias, I know that I would not be happy to have my life on the line so that Libyan oil can flow to France and Al Qaeda can take over the Libyan government.  But that’s just me.  Do any of you have any sense about the boots on the ground thinking?

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  • oceanguy

    I’ve been retired for 15 years, so my thoughts are probably not current, but I doubt they’re far off.  Initially the folks called to action will be excited and proud… and anxious to be doing for real what they have trained so long and hard for.  Certainly the air crews are gladly facing the challenges of a real world “kinetic situation,”  and are glad to show their skills. That being said, after the initial surge of excitement, there must be an emphasis on leadership to focus the thoughts and efforts.  Your average warfighter is not thinking geo-politically, they are only concentrating on doing their jobs… the jobs they are ordered to to… to the best of their abilities.  And as long as it is only air power and cruise missiles involved, the situation will not likely affect morale or motivation.  However, the introduction of ground troops would change the situation dramatically.

    Strong effective leadership is essential to military morale, readiness and effectiveness.  When there is a disconnect in the chain of command.. a weak link in the chain… morale problems are inevitable.  Ground troops in Libya, in my mind, would be more akin to the troops in Somalia during the Clinton years…  politically limited and a muddy mission, weak support from the top of the change of command, and a sizeable disconnect between what commanders said was needed to succeed and what the political leaders were ready to provide (you might remember the unfulfilled requests for armor as one example).  

    In that sort of situation… a muddy mission and tepid support from the senior leadership, just causes confusion and a logarithmic thickening of the fog of war.  The people on the ground will still, as always, do their jobs to the best of their abilities, but…  

    I wasn’t in Somalia, but would love to hear from any vets of that short campaign to see how they felt and how they dealt with the challenges of translating Washington’s blurry political vision into clear goals and objectives on the ground.

  • Ymarsakar

    A National geographic program had the Rangers that were in Somalia on a sort of tiered bench setup, like a focus group.

    One of the things that struck me was that the enlisted, which forms the majority of the Rangers, said that they didn’t mind being given a mission that would demand of them their lives, only that the sacrifice be worth something in the end.

    Which it wasn’t in Somalia.

    Weeks before I’ve said that things were looking like Libya will become another Iran. Obviously the MSM weren’t telling people the real deal. on purpose.

  • Ymarsakar

    Btw, Book, do you remember how scathing and contemptuous the Leftists were when they said that our mission in Iraq was creating more terrorists and helping AQ or Iran?

    They really enjoyed saying things like that, didn’t they. If I could, I’d throw their words back at them, just to make them suffer for their arrogance.

  • Ymarsakar

    It won’t be a tenth of a percent what they made our allies and our American soldiers suffer in Iraq, but even a sliver is enough to make the point.

  • Oldflyer

    Somalia has become the poster child for an amorphous mission, turned tragic.  I am one of the very few who never quite excused Reagan for Beiruit.  Not only the horrible loss of Marines, but the very ill advised retaliatatory air strikes.  One of my class mates was one of the two  Air Wing Commanders involved.  It was a screwed up, political mess from the start.  Navy recommendations were dismissed out of hand.  As a result we looked like fools.  My friend was shot down, but unscathed.  We lost an A-6 aircraft and the pilot.  The African American (yes that is significant) Bombardier-Navigator was  captured; then freed after a personal appeal to the Terrorists by Jessie Jackson.  JJ went over and escorted him home.  The whole mess was a disaster that started as a euphemous peace keeping mission.   U. S. troops are not peace-keepers, because they immediately become targets.

    Oceanguy, makes good points, except for one thing.  This is not new to our people now.  We have been at war for a long time.  I am sure they will perform professionally, just as they did in the later stages of Vietnam.  But, I doubt that there is any enthusiasm, and probably not much confidence that their efforts will bring about any worthwhile result.

  • oceanguy

    Oldflyer,  I’m right with you on Reagan and Beirut.  In my now defunct blog I had written about it a few times.  I was in Beirut twice, once for a bit in April and May of 83, just after the American embassy was bombed, and again in august and September, just before the Marine barracks was hit, and a couple of months before Mark Lange was lost and Bobby Goodman captured.  Even at the time I was not a Reagan fan.  

    My helicopter squadron was seeing NONE of the famous Reagan defense build-up.  All we dealt with were cuts… cuts in training dollars, cuts in flight time, and delays in aircraft replacement.  Then Reagan decided to step in to protect Arafat and tie Israel’s hands, forcing their withdrawal before their mission was complete.  We even protected Arafat’s withdrawal/retreat from Beirut. So, yeah, I’ve been a frontline “troop” with little confidence in the wisdom of political decisions. Still I remember our morale being pretty high.  Sure we grumbled and bitched, cause thats’ what sailors and soldiers do, but I think there was a general feeling that we were just being reined in.  I naively thought and hoped that Reagan would come to his senses and let us take care of the mission.  If making peace was the mission we had to confront and defeat those that were making war.

    We may have been chomping at the bit to let us take care of the problem, but that sort of tension between the profession of arms and the civilian leadership always exists outside of war.  So, I don’t think our real questioning and frustrations came out until Reagan had us run away from the problem, at least that was true with me. It was the giving up that hurt the most. Especially after losing so many in the Barracks bombing, it hurt me deeply to run away and give Hizbollah that uncontested victory.  IT still bothers me almost 30 years later, that the same fight has been ignored and we have just let the other side… the enemy… harass us and attack us all over the world while suffering no consequences.  Ahhh my morning is off to a bad start with those memories coming back into focus.  

    BTW, Mark Lange was a friend and classmate of mine and I knew Bobby Goodman as he lived just upstairs from me at USNA.  A dozen more folks I knew were lost in the Barracks bombing. I take solace in the fact that those were minor skirmishes in the war against violent Islam that has been going on since at least 1979.  We’ve (the USA) largely ignored that war, denying it is happening.  But the days of ignoring the war and not recognizing the enemy are coming to an end.  

    I don’t have much confidence in this Administration satisfactorily handling the coming trouble and that will mean a lot of unnecessary pain, loss of life and treasure, but I have full confidence that we will rise to the occasion when it matters.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Ymar opines: If I could, I’d throw their words back at them, just to make them suffer for their arrogance.

    Yup. Virtually everything of which they accused the Bush administration- “go it alone”, “rush to war”, “war for oil”, “failure to consult Congress”, “no exist strategy”, “a war that cannot be won”… blah, blah, blah was not only patently false but is absolutely 100% applicable to the Obama regime’s handling of Libya today. And all the Left has to offer, in response, is the silence of chirping crickets.

    It is quite clear to me, in retrospect, that the Left didn’t give two wits about their so-called objections to the Iraq conflict.  All their opposition to the Iraq conflict distills down to one thing: to take down a Republican U.S. President, no matter the cost in U.S. lives and to U.S. foreign policy interests. 

    The question of the time was “do you question the patriotism of those Democrats who oppose the Iraq war?”. My answer now is, “No, I have no question whatsoever about their patriotism: they have none!” They have only one objective: Democrat dominated power and control, their country and its people be damned!

  • Bookworm

    Okay, saccharine time here, but have I mentioned before how blessed I am that the people who visit this blog, between their own life experiences, their intelligence, and their hunger for knowledge, keep expanding my own mental horizons?

    And that’s no joke….

  • Ymarsakar

    Danny, I started figuring that out by 2005 and 2006.