Friday, March 18, 2011
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.