The 21st century has barely begun yet it has taught us some invaluable lessons. One is that while Western leaders may be marginally capable of some things, when it comes to warfare they all ought to be locked away safely in some basement.
Another lesson is that military supremacy doesn't guarantee military victory and, even then, rarely translates into the desired political victory.
America and her leaders are positively besotted with their military prowess. Including their foreign adventures, the US government borrows about a trillion dollars a year to achieve - almost nothing. A trillion dollars is a lot of money, a lot of a lot of money, and it's even more so when you get it on the "never- never". But when you spend a lot of a lot of money borrowed on the "never-never" and get nothing back for it except the chance to do it all over again next year and the year after that, you're being led by a class of political morons served by a gaggle of ticket-punching military morons. If it was your kid, you would take away their allowance, hide the car keys and send them to their room without dinner.
To prime minister Steve, America's military misadventures are as seductive as a Friday night frat house poker party. Ya gotta get a seat at that table. You're dying for the chance to ante up with the fellas, pound a dozen Buds and smoke a couple of stogies. You're so eager to get in you never figure out how you're getting home when you're tapped out, can't remember your address and can barely stagger your way to the front door.
Vietnam taught the Americans never to get into a war without a clear exit strategy. You need to know how and when you're getting out no matter how the war turns out. Bush the Elder knew that when he stopped at the Iraqi border instead of driving on to Baghdad. A decade later his son, Bush the Lesser, decided he'd fix papa's mistakes and finish the job - without an exit strategy. American troops are still there.
Steve thought it was shameful that we didn't stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with our traditional (i.e. 'white') allies and join with them in invading Iraq. He was, however, a boasting booster of the Afghan fiasco - until he wasn't. Overnight, Steve went positively weak in the knees on that one.
However Afghanistan may have given Steve but a soiled nappy when he really needed scorched fingers. How else to explain his rush to get six Canadian Hornet fighters in on the 'beat up Gaddafi' bandwagon? If there was ever a mission that screamed "NO" that was it.
What was/is the mission? There's a wobbly UNSC resolution that seemed almost deliberately vague. Nowhere does it authorize regime change yet that is the plain objective of Washington and London. Our approach has been to use air supremacy to wreak havoc on Gaddafi forces, paving the way for the rebels to storm Tripoli and oust the dictator. But no one had a game plan to cover the "what ifs". What if we ran out of targets? What if we had nothing left to bomb and the rebels still couldn't win? What if our airpower was nullified and Gadaffi was poised to inflict a murderous defeat on the rebels and civilian population in their territory? How does this adventure end? What does victory for the guys driving our CF-18s look like? The answers? No one has a clue.
As recently reported in Asia Times Online, it seems Gaddafi has successfully called our bluff:
You don't remain in power over four decades in a developing country without learning a military trick or two from illustrious predecessors such as China's Mao Zedong and Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh - not to mention bunglers such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq. After learning the lesson of having his tanks like sitting ducks in the desert bombed at will by the "coalition of the willing" (a few NATO members plus Qatar), Gaddafi is now fighting light-armor guerrilla style against the "rebels".
NATO's response has been more predictable than those everyday multilingual stalemates in Brussels; hurling accusations that Gaddafi is using human shields - as in his tanks in Misrata being "dispersed" across town and inside the perimeter. Translation: NATO's Tornado/Rafale air war is useless, unless you can bomb a tank column resplendent in the desert sun.
The circus is one more instance of how this war that is not a war is in fact a farce. The French and the British especially have bought their own hype that Gaddafi's regime is crumbling. They have also bought their own hype that this mixed bag of former Gaddafi loyalists, dodgy exiles, al-Qaeda-linked jihadis, business opportunists and true youthful revolutionaries have a political and militarily coherence, and are truly representative of the whole of Libya.
The war that in fact no one wants except Sarko and Cameron is fizzling out like a ghastly remake of The Three Stooges (bidding is open for nominating the third stooge). That's what you get when you take sides in an African civil war where even the "good guys" are murkier than the waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Western members of this "coalition of the willing", the Brits and the French foremost, not to mention the Pentagon, pray there will be, at the end of the tunnel, plenty of oil and a strategic Africom/NATO base in northern Africa. But there's no guarantee.
The last hope for sanity in all this mess is Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proposed his version of a roadmap for peace - calling for humanitarian aid corridors and steps toward democracy.
...Let's wait. As it stands, any road map will beat bombed-out NATO.