Friday, March 18, 2011

Command and control of a UN coalition for Libya

As the international community has reached consensus that a coalition of air forces will begin enforcing a no-fly zone and possibly air strikes, it's time to begin thinking about how to operationalize this endeavor. At last count, France, UK, Canada, and Denmark have already ponied up forces and President Obama was in discussions with Congress and French and UK leaders about possible U.S. involvement.

Here's the catch with U.S. involvement: if we provide troops (in this case planes and naval vessels), command and control of the operation may fall to the U.S. Title X of the U.S. Code dictates that the chain of command for U.S. forces will never deviate from the President to operational commanders. In the 1990s, President Clinton signed Presidential Decision Directive 25, which states that if the U.S. is involved in UN operations, U.S. forces can be placed under the operational command of competent UN force commanders. It also states that as the proportion of U.S. forces in the command increases, it is less likely that U.S. forces would fall under foreign command. At the moment I can't find anything that supersedes this PDD (if our readers do know of anything please post in the comments), so it seems that it is the most liberal document on this topic and can likely be ignored, leaving the default deciding factor as Title X.

If the United States provides an aircraft carrier or two, we would likely be the largest single nation contribution to the coalition. That means we would have command. I would imagine this is in the administrations calculus on whether or not to be part of a coalition. It doesn't seem we want to own this and would prefer letting Europe take the lead, but it seems we can't do that and provide forces. This will be a tough decision for the U.S. and the international community.


  1. Cool! the French are taking the lead. I'm going to start using French Fries again, every time I ask for Freedom Fries, they always look at me funny.

    The French are cool again. God bless the French, and their hairy pitted women.

  2. Never understood the US aversion to hair on females. But did you knoow that fat girls are not allowed within the Paris city borders? They have policepatrols and shit...

    Seriously, I think this may be the first "white hat" action in the umma in a long time. Possible Aceh moment. Even if the loyalists dig in, they will be deprived the use of mobility on the long, long highways of the desert. And then the maoist strengths of the peasants are back in play, as soon as the fuel runs out. I hope we take out some highways and let the loyalists have a try at roadrepair...

  3. I think you're confusing a couple of distinct issues here. The 'UN operations' referred to in PDD25 mean peacekeeping ops launched under UN auspices, with a Force Commander appointed by the Secretary-General, and answering to the Security Council via the SG. That's quite distinct from a UN authorized force, which has its own C2 arrangements that do not flow through the Security Council.