Sunday, July 10, 2011

When is a No a No?

The NATO intervention in the Libyan civil war clearly shows how different the European countries act. I does not even depend upon if they are NATO-members or not. Finances and political will out-weights their NATO-obligations in a time when the threat from Russia is almost non-existent.

France went into action with haste and did not even wait for the rest of NATO to act. With support of USA and UK they stroke first with long distance missiles (US and UK only) and then with precision attacks to take out the Libyan air defence. North Africa has always been of particular interest to France.

In the Scandinavian countries there are also big differences. Norway and Denmark are at the front and are dropping more bombs per aircraft than any other country in the Alliance. Denmark is even out of bombs and have asked Holland for more. Finland choose to not send any of its F/A-18. Sweden, a non NATO-member, chose to send 8 Gripen aircraft and 1 C-130 tanker for air refueling. The aircraft are limited to recce missions only since the Swedish politicians are very afraid of civilian casualties.

Germany, one of the biggest and most powerful NATO-members also chose not to intervene in Libya. But this is just a political masquerade. Germany has agreed to send more AWACS personnel to Afghanistan in order for other NATO-countries to send personnel currently in Afghanistan to support the mission in Libya. Germany has also agreed to provide those NATO-countries that are out of ammunition with bombs from German supplies. I.e Germany are not doing the job themselves, but are making it easier for others to do it instead.

With the number of "smart" bombs dropped on Libya estimated at more than 2,000 some Nato allies have seen their stocks dramatically depleted.

Both Denmark and Norway are understood to have asked for more bombs through the Nato Maintenance and Supply Agency and the German defence minister Thomas de Maiziere has granted permission to release stocks.

Note: Out of 2000 "smart" bombs, Denmark has dropped 487!

I wonder for how long the NATO-countries can afford to drop the expensive "smart" bombs? Will the start using "dumb" bombs when the stocks are out and the finances does not cover buying more bombs from Germany or USA?

In this happen there will be more demand on the skill of the pilots to correctly identify their targets and then release the bombs at the correct coordinate. The precision will of course not be as good as with laser- or GPS-guided bombs. Therefore the safety margins and the ROE - Rules Of Engagement must be changed. Each country then also have national caveats within the ROE allowing their personnel to do less than what the ROE in itself states. Within the ROE and the national caveats there will also be more up to the pilot to say "no". After all, he/she is the only one with good information about the ground scenario. In Libya the NATO-forces lack FAC - Forward Air Controller that can identify the targets more precise. There are some Special Forces units on the ground that are cooperating with the rebels, but there is no information about them being used as FAC.

In Afghanistan there are rumors that Danish and Norwegian pilots (among others) have refused to bomb targets that did not look legitimate to them. Precision weapons have one big disadvantage, and that is the need for precision intelligence. It does not matter how small targets you can hit, if it is the wrong target. Precision weapons also make it possible to bomb closer to civilians and your own units which increase the risk if something goes wrong.

During the Iraq War there was numerous incidents with blue-on-blue and civilian casualties. Australian pilots have reported 40 occasions when they did not deliver their weapons because the targets was not correct.

But it appears there were fundamental differences between the US dominated headquarters and Australian pilots over what constituted a valid military target.

Squadron Leader Pudney said under Australia's rules of engagement pilots had to ask themselves on each mission whether it was right to drop their bombs.

"Each guy would have made that decision once to half a dozen times in the conflict. It was presented as being just one pilot in one incident, but it was all of us several times," he said.

If e.g. the Swedish politicians does not want their pilots to take these decisions then it is correct to do as they have done to limit the Swedish Gripen to only perform recce missions. But someone has to do the fighting otherwise the Gripen photos will be of no use other than documenting Gadaffis war on his people. Unfortunately there is no possibility for a pilot to say "Yes" to a mission his leaders have forbidden him to do. In this case it is only for him to watch, as was being done i Rwanda and Srebrenica by the UN-forces. But sometimes you can be punished for doing nothing. The dutch government has lost a case in the Haag tribunal for not protecting three men in Srebrenica. 8000 people were killed in Srebrenica, will their families sue the dutch government also?

What will this court decision lead to? More countries taking more responsibility for their actions and getting involved to protect civilians or some countries avoiding the international missions completely in order to avoid any risk of doing anything wrong.


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