The built-in impotency of coalition air power – Israeli angle

The coalition air force operating in Libya is a joke. This is not because it lacks the equipment, but because there is no coherent line of command. Israel is watching very closely, and some conclusions have already been made.

The use of coalition forces has gained popularity in the last ten years. When wars do not threaten a specific country, its armed forces play their part in a coalition force – with no great enthusiasm. This is natural, as is the idea behind coalition forces – go through the motions of fighting, try not to be hit and come home safe. The mission is the second or third priority.

Take Libya, for example. What one determined air force would have achieved in one or two weeks, against a primitive army with no significant air power, has been taking months – and still there is no final result. This is a joke that lets Gaddafi play chess when coalition aircraft are flying above.

The coalition force in Libya, like others, is not tailored by experts. The hastily-formed force has no effective common command, and different governments’ interests are a factor that affects the results of airstrikes.

The potential firepower over Libya in recent months has been huge, but this firepower was used in a very inefficient manner. With this amount of firepower in the air Gaddafi should have raised a white flag long ago.

The conclusion is clear cut – coalition forces, in their current form, are “going with, feeling without”.

Countries that want to be portrayed as concerned for human rights join these forces without any intent to use their military might for decisive blows – most of the time against armies that are ill-equipped and poorly trained.

The Middle East has changed, the only stable country is Israel. In such a situation it seems natural that Washington will rush to assist Israel in case of a real threat – but among those of the defence establishment this historic belief has been shaken.

This will no doubt lead to a gradual change in Israeli policy, which has never put the “retaliation equation” on the table. If this happens the US must understand it – but Washington has often been slow in understanding life in the Middle East.

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