There's been a great deal of justifiable hand-wringing over the last several days about war aims, an issue that has only been further confused by the president's remarks on the subject. In the directive portion of the Security Council resolution, that august body variously demands, stresses, authorizes, recognizes, decides, calls upon, requests, requires, and urges various parties to take certain actions. I'm going to boil all of that down to the fundamentals. So here's what the resolution does:
1. Demands an immediate cease-fire and end to violence against civilians (presumably by the regime).
2. Demands that the regime meet the basic needs of its civilian population.
3. Authorizes member states to take action to enforce (1), including by arming rebel forces.
4. Establishes a ban on flights over Libyan territory, with certain exceptions, and without specific instructions as to how such a ban will be enforced, or by whom.
5. Authorizes member states to figure out (4) for themselves, and to take responsibility for enforcement.
6. Forbids the deployment of foreign occupation forces on Libyan territory.
7. Reinforces the provisions of a previous resolution (UNSCR 1970) that relate to an arms embargo, travel ban, and asset freeze on members of the Libyan regime.
As you can see, member states are pretty well left to their own devices when it comes to enforcement. That means that individual states like the U.S., or groupings of states operating as an international enforcement coalition, must translate these demands and requirements into desired endstates and military objectives. How might that look? Here's my run at it.
1) Operations against civilians by the Libyan regime are halted (either voluntarily or by compulsion)
2) A no-fly zone over Libyan territory is created and enforced
3) Basic needs of the civilian population are met by the Libyan regime*
4) Humanitarian assistance is freely provided to affected populations
*The president elaborated this requirement by saying that "Qaddafi must... establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas."
These endstates are conditions that are not time-limited; they contain no measure of sustainability, so we must assume that to enact them initially will be considered an objective endpoint. By this standard, the UN-authorized operation would have achieved its purpose if each of these conditions were to be satisfied -- that is, if Libyan forces declared and honored a cease-fire; a no-fly zone were created; water, electricity, and gas were restored to the entire country; and humanitarian assistance reached those who have been impacted by violence. (The president added that "Qaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, [and] pull them back from Ajdabiya, Misrata and Zawiya;" presumably this is to ensure the protection of civilians, but if a cease-fire were to be declared and honored, withdrawal would seem redundant.)
1a) Defeat, dislocate, and/or destroy those Libyan regime forces directly threatening the safety of civilians
1b) Defeat, dislocate, and/or destroy those Libyan regime forces that refuse to withdraw from the immediate vicinity of Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Misrata, and Zawiya
2a) Establish air supremacy over Libyan territory in order to prevent regime air assets from operating
2b) Defeat, dislocate, and/or destroy those Libyan regime air defenses that may threaten coalition forces enforcing a no-fly zone
3a) Coerce Libyan regime to restore supply of water, gas and electricity to civilian population
3b) Disrupt Libyan regime efforts to interrupt supply of water, gas and electricity to civilian population
4a) Defeat, dislocate, and/or destroy those Libyan regime forces presently positioned to disrupt the provision of humanitarian assistance to affected civilian populations
4b) Secure those airfields and port facilities, and supply routes deemed necessary to deliver humanitarian aid
4c) Execute delivery of humanitarian supplies as necessary in support of international humanitarian relief effort
To be clear, if all of these objectives are achieved, here's where we're at: Qaddafi regime retains power; those Libyan forces not postured to threaten civilian populations are left armed and operational; governance of rebel-controlled areas, including supply of water, gas, electricity, and other basic needs becomes the responsibility of opposition forces, and/or the international community, as the Libyan regime will no longer have access to this territory; a de-facto partition of Libyan territory without any plan or vision for how this partition is either formalized or resolved. This untenable reality is, of course, a policy and strategy problem, not a military one.
But what about those military objectives? Are they achievable with the ways and means at our disposal?
1) Coalition air and naval strikes against Libyan regime maneuver forces
2a) Persistent presence and monitoring of Libyan airspace by coalition air and electronic warfare assets
2b) Coalition air and naval strikes against Libyan air defense and command and control assets
3a) Coalition air and naval strikes and information operations against Libyan regime leadership
3b) Restoration of water, gas and electricity supplies by coalition ground forces and/or provisional governmental authority
3c) Coalition air and naval strikes against Libyan regime maneuver forces
4a) Coalition air and naval strikes against Libyan regime maneuver forces
4b) Airfield and port seizures by coalition airborne and special operations forces
4c) Movement of humanitarian aid by military transport and logistics assets
4d) Persistent coalition air and ground presence to secure lines of communication
Let's pause for a second before we move on to means. There are a few of these ways that directly contravene various provisions of the UNSCR, notably the prohibition on "foreign occupation forces" (read coalition ground forces) on Libyan territory. As such, the ways available to coalition military forces to effect objectives 3 and 4 are fundamentally non-viable. Without the use of coalition ground forces to directly restore or coerce the Libyan regime into restoring water, gas and electricity, or to allow the movement of humanitarian assistance into affected areas, the only way to accomplish these objectives is to hope the regime can be battered so fiercely as to accede to international will. (This seems -- to risk understatement -- unlikely at this point.) And to make things more difficult, the regime must be battered sufficiently to allow the imposition of the international community's will, but not so thoroughly as to render it incapable of delivering mandated public services.
But now what about the means available? This is the easy part.
1), 2) U.S. and other coalition air and naval assets in the Mediterranean Sea, Crete, Malta, Italy, other parts of continental Europe, and long-range assets from the U.S. and non-European forward staging areas
3), 4) [Not applicable as they would cause a violation of UNSCR: as above, plus coalition ground forces, transportation and logistics assets, and humanitarian relief assets from the international community]
What if the roadblocks went away? Well, that's where things get really messy. If you want to talk about the restoration of public services to the population, the wholesale removal of regime threat to any and all civilians on all parts of Libyan territory, etc., then see Iraq, Republic of, 2006 et seq.
As mentioned earlier, all this is made even more confusing by President Obama's response when asked if regime change was a goal of coalition military operations:
“It is U.S. policy that Qaddafi needs to go,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference with the Chilean president, Sebastián Piñera. “And we’ve got a wide range of tools in addition to our military effort to support that policy.” Mr. Obama cited economic sanctions, the freezing of assets and other measures to isolate the regime in Tripoli.In case this doesn't make sense to you: the goal of coalition (including U.S.) military action in Libya is to enforce UNSCR 1973. An additional policy goal of the United States is the removal of Qaddafi from power, but at present the U.S. does not seek to effect that goal through the application of military force -- i.e. through the expansion of the ongoing military campaign. What the president doesn't speak to is U.S. policy post-Qaddafi: if we get what we presumably want and the despot goes, then what? What is our responsibility? What is our desired endstate? What assets and resources can and should we bring to bear to effect that endstate? We're left in the dark. I suppose we can cross that bridge when we come to it, right?
So to sum this all up, our "focused goal" is to enforce the provisions of a UNSC resolution that is in part unenforceable, and on the whole almost certainly unsustainable. Our follow-on plan is to transition whatever military effort remains (after initial operations achieve their objectives) to an international coalition of uncertain composition and under uncertain leadership, and then to use what other non-military means we have at our disposal to seek the non-coalition, non-military, U.S. policy objective of regime change in Libya. ("We are not going to use military means to go beyond a well-defined goal -- specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya.") And then: apres Qaddafi, le deluge... of win. (We hope.)
UPDATE: Here's ADM Locklear, commander of JTF Odyssey Dawn, speaking to the press yesterday:
I think our president was pretty clear when he laid out the construct in his POTUS [President of the United States] speech on 18 March of what his expectations were; one of those, that the regime forces of Gadhafi have to stop advancing on Benghazi; they have to pull back from Zawiyah, Ajdabiya, Misurata. They have not done that. Benghazi, we have -- we basically have forced him out of Benghazi. In the other three places, they have not complied -- (audio break) -- direction from our president.
And so if I take a look at how I -- my mission here, I apply that type of standard to operations that are occurring. If Colonel Gadhafi would meet that requirement, would have a cease-fire implemented; stop all attacks against citizens and withdraw from the places that we've told him to withdraw; establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas and allow humanitarian assistance, then the fighting would stop. Our job would be over.This seems to confirm the military objectives identified above, as well as my conclusions about when U.S. leadership feels the operation will be over.