Thursday, March 3, 2011

Libya: The Problem with Reality TV as International Policy

The Donald is unhappy.

He is, in fact, aggrieved.

If this were an episode of The Apprentice, heads would be rolling.

Yesterday Trump appeared on NBC’s Today Show and expressed his dissatisfaction with America’s response to the growing crises in Libya – and by “Libya” I mean “opportunity to grandstand” and by “America” I mean “sissy liberal black guy in the White House.”

Trump said to Matt Lauer:

Again, it’s the weakness of our country.  We have all those soldiers, all those ships over there and you have this mad man shooting people down in the streets. They’re protesting and they’re protesting rather violently. He has F-18s shooting bullets into the crowds and I think killing probably tens of thousands of people. They say two or three thousand people, I think it’s got to be a lot more than that.”

One of the problems with Reality TV is that it rarely reflects actual reality in any way whatsoever.

Such is the case here.

Trump begins with the standard rightwing canard, i.e. America is “weak.”  

Conservatives like to say that America is the best country in the whole darned world, always has been, always will be, favored by God, land of the free, home of the brave, capitalism, mom and apple pie in every kitchen, a Hummer in every garage, gun shows and tractor pulls, best medical system in the world, mightiest military, biggest economy, we won every battle, invented everything worth having, discovered everything worth exploring, wrote everything worth reading, brew the only beer worth drinking, and if you don’t agree, why, we’ll have our B-52’s drop some fucking freedom on your country so you’d better just watch your isalmocommiefascist mouths.

And yet, we’re weak. 

That’s right, if we don’t charge in, unprepared and ass backward into places where angels fear to tread, we’re weak.

According to The Donald, “we’ve got “all these soldiers, all those ships over there.”

Apparently, nobody mentioned to President Scroob Trump that the vast majority of our military might is tied up elsewhere in the Middle East – and that the bulk of our forces are nowhere near North Africa.   There’s one Carrier group in the neighborhood – centered on USS Enterprise, the oldest and least capable of America’s nuclear aircraft carriers – and that’s a strike group not a battle or an amphibious assault group, there’s big difference. We’ll come back to this particular subject in a minute.

Trump says that “this mad man” is shooting people down in the streets.

Well, thank you, Captain Combover.  Allow me to point out that Moammar Gaddafi has been shooting his own citizens in the streets of Libya for about 40 years now, and prior to last week nobody in the executive suite at Trump Towers gave a shit. So, why for the outrage now? Is it because Qaddafi somehow managed to acquire American military aircraft? I can tell you I was certainly surprised to learn that the Libyan air force is flying US-made F-18 Falcons. Last I knew the Libyans were flying French and Russian fighters, and according to the State Department we couldn’t even export Silly Putty to them. So, when did we start selling them our latest military technology? 


Oh, right.

My bad. F-18, SU-22, MIG-25, Mirage, whatever.  The details are a little hazy, anybody could make that mistake, but boy howdy you can trust to Trump to have the rest of his military intelligence and understanding of the situation in Libya correct.  Details are for peons, Trump is more of a big picture man.


You’ve really got to admire Trump’s grasp of military intelligence and analysis. Seriously. He explains, “…I think killing probably tens of thousands of people. They say two or three thousand people, I think it’s got to be a lot more than that.” 

Trump does not bother to share with us mere mortals what, exactly, he bases the assessment of “tens of thousands” on, you’ll just have to take his word for it. 

I suspect his body count is about as accurate as his grasp of Moammar’s military hardware.

Yes, the sound you hear is me banging my head on the desk yet again. 

As a combat officer who has served in this particular part of the world, I have nothing but contempt for this kind of idiotic clueless nonsense – as should every American.  Haven’t we had enough of this horseshit? Haven’t we wasted enough American lives on this kind of silly make-believe garbage?  This kind of sloppy hyperbolic reasoning is exactly what got us into Beirut. It’s what got us into Somalia. It’s what got us into Iraq after Kuwait and kept us there for two decades maintaining no-fly zones and useless UN Sanctions until we finally waded in again, all piss and vinegar and without a fucking clue as to reality on the ground.  Last I checked, we’re still there – despite assurances from our leadership (who like Trump ignored actual reality and relied on  gut feelings and belief and the imaginary voice of Jesus in his head) that we’d be in and out in a month or two, that we’d only need a couple thousand troops to hold the country after the invasion, and that the Iraqis would cheer us in the streets.

Oh yes, let’s have us some more of that.

“I would certainly support a no-fly zone at a minimum (Including US military forces on the ground in Libya).  I would not do it for a long period of time, but you can’t allow, this is like a holocaust, you can’t allow something like this to happen. It should have been done already. He could have saved a lot of lives if this were done. That could have been surgically, he could have been surgically taken out. He knocked out the Pan Am plane. This is not a good man. This is not a sane man. Something should have happen and I don’t mean by leaving our troops there for any longer than a very short time.”

Jesus H. Christ, Charlie Sheen makes more goddamned sense than this bombastic chicken hawk.

Allow me to explain the one immutable fundamental element of a no-fly zone: you cannot do it “at a minimum.”

You’re either all in, or all out.  Anything else just leaves you mired up to your neck while the enemy kills you one by one.  There are endless examples of this na├»ve, ignorant, shallow, stupid, armchair Field Marshal bullshit throughout the last 60 years of our history, from Korea to Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan.

And anybody with a modicum of military experience could tell you that.

Here’s how a no-fly zone in Libya would have to work.

Step 1: Invade. 

Yes, that’s right. We’d have to start by killing Libyans.  We’d have to reduce the country’s air defense system, that means combat air strikes and cruise missiles to destroy both anti-air defenses and Libyan fighter aircraft – see, otherwise they use those things to shoot down your airplanes.  So you have to destroy them first.  There’s no way to tell which units are friendly to the regime and which are rebels – and rebels tend to regard you bombing their country as an anti-social act so they tend to shoot at you despite the fact that you’re supposedly there to support them. You have to destroy them all.  There is no way to do that without killing Libyans. Lots of them. Friendly Libyans. Hostile Libyans. And the poor sons of bitches just caught in the open at the wrong time.   You may expect a large number of civilian casualties as collateral damage in addition to the large number of military personnel – and you can expect those numbers to increase exponentially if the Libyans try to fight back or try to hide their AA systems in civilian neighborhoods.  Additionally, you can’t reduce an entire country’s defense system with only one carrier strike group.  See, our strike aircraft will have to be protected, so we’ll need fighters to escort them too. Libya has good air defenses, which means we are likely to take losses, which means we’ll need more aircraft and support forces for search and rescue and opposed recovery.  Libya has long range missiles that they’re libel to shoot at our fleet and at our allies in the region, just like they did the last time we went down there. So we’ll need to destroy those too. Libya has a small navy, but it’s equipped with cruise missile that could threaten  our ships, so we’ll need to destroy those targets as well.  Also, we’ll need recce and intel and electronic support aircraft.  That’s a lot more than Enterprise can provide, so we’re going to have to redeploy a number of additional carriers. Those carriers are either refitting between deployments in their homeports, or they are on station in the war zones in the Arabian Sea and the Arabian Gulf right now. Those carriers aren’t going to deploy to Libya for a full-on air assault without their own strike groups to protect them, so that means all the cruisers and destroyers in the Gulf too (oh, and you can forget about fighting those pirates in the Indian Ocean for a while).  We’ll need cruise missiles, specifically Tomahawks, those are fired by cruisers and destroyers and submarines, and they’ll need to reload and refuel and resupply too so that means a bunch of support ships. Understand that these ships and their crews have been in constant deployment and rotation status for nearly a decade now. Their schedules are tightly planned. The only way to provide the vessels necessary for this little adventure will be to extend deployments or to cut short an already abbreviated Inter-Deployment Training Cycle. You’re going to be really popular in the Fleet.  Now, it would be nice if we could use the Air Force for this op, but they need land bases. Land bases in countries that don’t mind being seen as directly supporting the United States on yet another invasion of a Middle Eastern country – that’s going to rule out Italy and Spain and France.  So where else? Israel? That’ll go over big.  Egypt? Tunisia? Djibouti?  Or maybe the Air Force can fly 16 hour sorties from England like the last time we did this?   Oh, and you’ll need UN permission.  Yes, you will.  Unless you intend to go it alone and unless you like being declared a rogue state.  See, Libya isn’t attacking us – so if we start bombing them, no matter why, without UN consensus, we’re the aggressors and subject to international sanction.  Yes, I know, the UN can kiss our red white and blue asses. No matter that we’re the ones who wrote those treaties. Why would the Greatest Nation in the World need to keep its promises to its allies and other nations? Right. Fuck ‘em.

That’s for starters.

Step 1b: Trump said he’d include ground forces.  First, you’ll have to figure out where those forces will come from. Will you pull active combat units out of Iraq? Afghanistan? Pakistan? What missions there are you willing to give up?And which units? The ones that just got there, or the ones preparing to leave? Either way, the units that were thinking they’d get to come home after a year of combat will get fucked right in the ass yet again. Or will you deploy units that are currently in reset here in the US? You know, those units that just returned from combat and are currently rebuilding and training and preparing for their next deployment back to Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan.  You’re going to be real popular with Soldiers and Marines. Real popular.  But hey, at least it’ll only be for a couple of months. Yeah. No. No, really, we believe you. This time. Sure.

Step 2: Establish the no-fly zone.

Um.  Hmmm. Well, okay. We’re going to need to patrol an area of about 2 million square miles. We’re going to need to do that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for as long as it takes.  We’ll need real time radar coverage of that entire area, so that means we’re going to need a dozen AWACS aircraft, and we’re going to need continuous fighter patrols, and we’ll need a couple squadrons of UAVS, and we’re going to need all the things that go with supporting a lot of air planes that are flying 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for as long as it takes, like maintainers and weather guessers and supply clerks and air traffic controllers and, well, there’s a lot of “and” – What we’ll need is a base or two or three, and that means all the things that go with a base including personnel and food and supplies and fuel and etcetera. Don’t worry though, we’ve been doing this for a while, we know what to do. Sigh.

Step 3: Stay.


Oh, heh heh. Riiiiight. We’re only going to be there until Qaddifi is gone. Should only a couple of weeks.  Surely it won’t be like how Saddam managed to hang on for nearly two decades.  Of course not.   Right, he’ll be gone in a few weeks. Sure. Then we can leave. 


Oh, well, yeah, I guess we did blow up Libya’s military and their air defense systems.  So, morally, I guess we’ll have to stick around until the new government is formed and they can buy new equipment and build a new army and security forces and democracy and, well, I guess they’ll need training and somebody to help them rebuild all those buildings we bombed. Couple years. Tops. But hey, the Libyans will be cheering us in the streets!

Now, here’s the really good part – we can do this without increasing the national debt, because, see, Libyan oil will pay for it all…


I would not do it for a long period of time…

These people go to war the same way they screw.

Trust me, I’ll only put it in a little way and I’ll pull out before we go too far. 

A year later and you’re standing line for diapers at 3 AM and the son of a bitch is nowhere to be found. Child support? Yeah, good luck with that, he’s suddenly a fiscal conservative…

Different asshole, same old shit.


Update: More thoughts on the recent UN Resolution regarding Libya here


  1. Is this how he's also going to pull us out of recession, by increasing military spending? Because it sure ain't gonna go down if we have to shuffle all those feet on the ground. *joining you in *headdesk**

  2. You missed the obvious -- we can do all the attacks on 24-hour flights out of Missouri with the B2 bombers.



    Dr. Phil

  3. Ahhhhh, how the hell did I miss that, Doc?

  4. Now, now, Jim. You're making this a science, man. You say it's just the Enterprise, but that baby's nukyular-powered. That means it's a lean, mean, 4 1/2 acre patch o' hurt in the ocean. Named after that ship on Star Trek, only it's more powerful.

    All they gotta do is load up a few of those super hornets with FM bombs & they'll take out everything Kaddaffy's got that'll do more'n 15 miles an hour in 2 passes. Hell, give 'em 3, just to be safe. We all know how this works 'cause we don't learn a damned thing from history; good enough if we know how to *spell* history. That was the class where we learned that Jefferson created the universe & then the Democrats came along to try to fuck it all up.

    Those people are dyin' over there, boy. And we can stop all that from 2500 feet at mach 2. We know we can; Beck told us we can.



  5. Apart from Trump being all ready to make the same mistakes that W. made all over again, only with less planning (and isn't that a cheerful thought?), what I think is going to be most interesting is the reaction if (I repeat, IF) the Libyan rebels decide to ask for a UN intervention. This is something they apparently have been considering. So, assuming they take the plunge and ask for outside assistance to topple Ghadafi...

    What does the US and Europe do? Morally, it'd be nice to think that we'd go with the rebels. But picking sides in a civil war, in North Africa, in a muslim country, what with the current state of the region and US allies already skittish from what's been happening in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Tunisia, Jordan, Iran...? I can't shake the feeling that if the rebels do make that plea, they'll be given a lot of polite words, and maybe at best some weapons and ammunition. Because politically, any actual intervention would be a can of worms I don't see anyone wanting to open, despite all the talking about it.

    I really hope the Libyan people manage to overthrow Ghadafi and manage to sort this out. But I also think that even if they ask, they can't (and shouldn't) rely on outside help.

  6. OMG!! Trump is actually considering a run for the Presidency!! Why else would he come out with such pompous statements about how HE would handle the situation in Libya? Isn't it bad enough that we've got Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, Gingrich, Huckabee, and Pawlenty popping up on the talk shows posing as pundits who know how to run things? Now we've got to cope with this idiot!! G-d help us all.

    Anyway, thanks Jim for the info on exactly what would have to happen to handle a "simple thing" like a No-Fly zone. I knew it was the wrong thing to do as soon as I heard it mentioned and now I know exactly why.

    1. Sadly prophetic. I wonder if you remember saying this? So much has happened since March 2011. Wish you had been wrong.

  7. Closed very nicely, Jim.

    For all the talk of how Sun Tzu inspired a generation of businessmen, they have forgotten one thing: there has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited.

    And, as you say, there is no way not to commit deeply to this. I only wish the public had learned this lesson before round two in Iraq.

  8. Could we put The Donald in a no comb zone?

    sidedable what Trump does when he isn't filming.

  9. Well, his hair would provide good cover from air attack, at the very least. Nothing could get through that shell.

    Let me see, surgical strikes to remove him from power. I think we tried that before, didn't we (for those who aren't Jim, no I'm not talking about Shock and Awe)? How did that turn out for us?

    It's another tar-baby, and while I feel for the rebels (who, btw, ousted the Libyan army after they retook a city, without supply, coordination, support, or any real general command structure, I think they might do well themselves), and I'd like to help... "Hi, thanks for calling the US. We're a little busy right now with two wars, a number of small engagements and enforcement operations, and a major recession. Leave your name and number and we'll get back to you as soon as we can... BEEP."

  10. The media's continuing dependance on "talking heads" rather than "thinking" ones is just one more example of how separated from reality we are all becoming. Maybe the current conflicts in North Africa would become more understandable to the average westerner if we reimagined it as a reality TV show. Trump's qualifications for the presidency are no less questionable then any other fringe candidate with the exception of his extensive experience in dealing with bankruptcy, something the US in general might find useful in the near future.

    reepit - what happens after you sowit

  11. Jim. You nailed it.

    I nearly went through the TV when I heard Kilmeade bitching about how we used a ferry to transport passengers out of Libya instead of a warship. "Just put a carrier out where the Libyans can see it. WHY haven't we done that?" Well...for starters, it takes time to move from one point to another, Admiral Kilmeade...

    Fantastic article, through and through. It needs wider publication somehow...

  12. Imagine putting a carrier near the shore where the Libyans can't miss firing their anti-shipping missiles... Just genius, man. Just pure genius.

    It's like using Star Trek episodes to learn military planning. Yikes.

    Dr. Phil

    bleta -- the beta test bleating of the blathering of the idiots

  13. There is a USN airbase not even 300 miles north of Libya. That, not the Enterprise, could/should be a no-fly zone's base of operations.

    Or Spain. Or Spain's OWN airbases. Or France's OWN airbases. Or Italy's OWN airbases. They have their OWN air forces. They have excellent equipment and well-trained pilots.

    The Enterprise could/should be back up, if anything at all.

    If the Italians would play ball. Heck, if NATO would play ball. The Med is lousy with French and UK aircraft carriers.

    Will they?

    Doubt it. You think we're dependent on oil? Just ask Europe about their dependence.

    Plus, Italy is a hotbed for domestic terrorists. A little help from Khadafi is all they need to get better... and spread throughout Europe since they can go anywhere via car or rail with little interference from anything resembling the TSA.

  14. Wine Guy, yes, that's exactly what I was alluding to in the post.

  15. This is a really good article, Jim. You explained in 3 "easy" steps just what it takes to accomplish a no fly zone.

    Donald Trump needs to stop flapping his gums about stuff he knows nothing about.

    I wish I had his email. I would love to send your post to him.

  16. And now someone needs to send this to McCain who seemed to agree with The Donald on Sunday. Heard him say some such about No-Fly Zones. He needs a little refresher.

  17. Is former Secretary of Defense reading your blog? He just got on CNN and said essentially the same thing.

  18. p.s. that was Bill Cohen, former Sec Def that was on CNN

  19. Why the frack is Libya OUR problem, the Italians created the shat hole, THEY have an Air Force.....
    Just Saying...

  20. "Conservatives like to say that America is the best country in the whole darned world, ... and if you don’t agree, why, we’ll have our B-52’s drop some fucking freedom on your country so you’d better just watch your isalmocommiefascist mouths."

    "And yet, we’re weak." "

    Well, of course! That's the basic "self-image" of any bully.

    "That’s right, if we don’t charge in, unprepared and ass backward into places where angels fear to tread, we’re weak."

    Better phrased as "do what I say(*) or you're next on the hit list". Of course, that applies domestically as well as abroad.

    (*) Especially helping him attack someone else.

  21. I know. Let's let the Donald go in there and take care of Khadafi. Yeah, that's the ticket. Let's be generous: give him a hummer anything and he can load into it.

    Turn him loose. If he gets Khadafi and comes back, oh well. Khadafi's handled. If not...oops.

    Everybody wins, right?

  22. You don't think Qaddafi has suffered enough?

  23. Sarah done. Donald "new." The good news is that he can't help but skewer himself into irrelevancy, either. Bad news is that he doesn't have three years to do it. It seems to take the electorate at least three years...if not eight, to figure things out.

  24. Jim,

    Using geography in an argument with conservatives is merely using a subset of facts and we know that facts are not allowed.

    Us Americans simply refuse to think of places like Egypt and Libya as largish nations and with millions of people and instead seem to think that it would be like invading New Mexico but with free gas.

    Thanks for pointing out that reality has issues with pundit jingoism.

  25. Jeeze Jim

    You loudmouth! You’re giving all our War College secrets away. Cripes man, ain’t you got no patriotism left in your soon-to-be-roasted-in-hell ass? When we go to war, we go to WIN!! It’s that simple.

    I look forward to President Trump’s ascension to the world’s greatest office. He’ll guarantee that we do it the American way. No more wasting time planning. Just real honest-to-goodness fake reality will do. After all, that is now the New American way. And just for good measure let’s get Snooki into the act. She knows all about getting down and dirty. Let’s get it on!!

    And you’re wrecking my sleep. When someone turned me on to your tirades about America a couple days ago, I started reading and I’ve barely hit the pillow since. It’s nice to know how all them leftist-commie- pinko-fascists think. Good on you for exposing them.

    BTW Jim if people want to edit your stuff, to make it shorter, give them the same treatment you gave that Visigoth Tex.


  26. Why, why, WHY are you wasting our valuable national resources by only writing in this blog when you should be out there leading people?? Everything you say makes so much goddamned sense, it hurts! I found my way here through the viral "America" post, and I haven't been able to stop reading since. Jesus man, our country needs you. Too bad you're too smart to ever want to get into politics.


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