[News] The 'optics' of Odyssey Dawn

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Mar 23 17:03:44 EDT 2011

The 'optics' of Odyssey Dawn
By Pepe Escobar

To follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click 

Odyssey Dawn, at least for now, is the first United States Africom 
war. The Pentagon, via Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, dispelled any 
doubts as he stressed that the "leading edge" is American. Homer is 
played by General Carter Ham, out of his headquarters in Stuttgart, 
Germany (no African country bothered to host Africom). And Ulysses - 
in what looks and sounds more like an Iliad than an Odyssey - is 
commander of Joint Task 
Odyssey Dawn Admiral Sam Locklear, on board USS Mount Whitney 
somewhere in the Mediterranean.

The White House and the Pentagon war planners bet their "unique 
capabilities" on a mini-remix of the "shock and awe" of the Iraq war. 
The problem is Colonel Muammar Gaddafi appears to be neither shocked 
nor awed; he may be angry - as in his photo op this Tuesday at the 
Bab al-Aziziya compound - but he hasn't cracked up. And his regime is 
fighting back, not turning against the colonel.

is publicly projecting the illusion of being desperate to get rid of 
this war sold as a "limited mission". But communications are jammed. 
As in the masters of war having a hard time to, in Pentagon lingo, 
"transition it to a coalition command".

Washington should have evaluated the "optics" before evoking Homer. 
Forget about mission creep (ongoing), friendly fire (it will come), 
collateral damage (already happened), axis of evil (a perennial 
favorite); the new Beltway neologism of choice is "optics". As in US 
military types and pundits carping that the "emotional optics" of 
cruise missiles plus coalition briefings reminds everyone of Iraq 
2003. Or widespread fears about the "optics of waging war" in yet 
another Muslim country.

Optical illusions
Even among the "allies", the "optics" is positively of the basket 
case variety. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an 
ungodly mess. Turkey wants dialogue - not bombs. Germany is against a 
NATO intervention - stressing only bombing won't do. France - 
clinging to neo-Napoleonic President Nicolas Sarkozy's megalomania - 
wants to keep the illusion it is in command.

Scared that France would usurp its place as Libya's prime trading 
partner and scrambling not to let Mediterranean policy be dictated in 
Paris, the Italian 
of Gaddafi pal, Prime Minister Silvio "Bunga Bunga" Berlusconi, 
reluctantly joined the "coalition" (and now, in private, Bunga Bunga 
is viciously trashing Sarko). Italian energy giant ENI has invested 
US$50 billion in Libya; thus ENI is keen on getting rid of Gaddafi 
after the colonel threatened to open Libyan oil and gas to BRIC 
members Russia, India and China.

The top four BRIC members (South Africa is the fifth) wisely skipped 
the whole Odyssey. Brazil called for a ceasefire and dialogue. China 
expressed "deep concern" and warned of a "humanitarian disaster". 
India said "no external powers should interfere" in Libya. And 
Russia, via 
Minister Vladimir Putin, dismissed the "allow everything" resolution.

The same applies for the 
African Union (AU). The AU wants a diplomatic solution. Gaddafi has 
plenty of historical allies among AU countries. It helps that he pays 
most of the AU's bills.

Algeria - also a member of the Arab League - said the intervention 
was "disproportionate". In Chad, President Idriss Deby remains in 
power to a great extent due to Gaddafi's deep pockets. Deby returned 
the favor sending mercenaries and weapons to Tripoli. There's more; 
if the no-fly zone is not extended to southern Libya (it covers just 
the north and the Mediterranean coast), Gaddafi is still able to 
<http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MC24Ak01.html#>military and 
manpower help from Chad, Mali, Niger and Algeria (see 
<http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MC08Ak01.html>Fly me a 
Tuareg on time Asia Times Online, March 8, 2011). It has not dawned 
on Odyssey Dawn's planners that a coalition without explicit AU 
support means the AU is free to keep helping Gaddafi's regime.

Then there's the meat in the coalition's kebab - the Arab League. 
Washington ordering the embattled kings of Morocco and Jordan and the 
wealthy emirs in Doha and Abu Dhabi to engage as "allies" - besides 
the astonishing grotesquerie of these dictators posing as 
humanitarian saviors of democracy - does not mean the Arab League is 
fully on board Odyssey Dawn.

Oh yes. Unless we count the then they were six, then they were four, 
now they're only two Qatar Air Force Mirage 2000 - plus a C-17 cargo 
plane - to be deployed probably this coming weekend as the glorious 
Arab League fighting contribution to the "coalition".

No endgame
The "coalition" never even came close to exhausting "all necessary 
measures" stressed by United Nations resolution 1953 to seek a 
diplomatic solution before the American Ulysses started Tomahawking 
Libya. What all these unwilling, no-coalition countries are 
essentially asking is for an international team - Arab League, 
African Union, United Nations - to go to Tripoli and negotiate a 
package; a real ceasefire, mechanisms to protect civilians, and a 
political process leading to elections.

As if the faulty "optics" was not enough, Odyssey Dawn is not a full 
success - apart from having prevented a hypothetical massacre in 
Benghazi. The horrible accounts from Zawiya and Misurata tell of 
civilians being attacked by tanks and armored vehicles, as well as 
militias - Gaddafi's "irregulars" - in jeeps and pick-up trucks. This 
proves that no-fly - which for the moment basically translates as 
shock and awe lite - is not protecting a whole lot of civilians.

United States President Barack 
<http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MC24Ak01.html#>Obama now 
seems to be sure he has successfully tweaked the "optics". The 
official spin is that Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and 
Sarko have all agreed that NATO should play "a key role" in Odyssey 
Dawn. Like in projecting the "optics" that it won't be in charge of 
the military wing of no-fly - when it eventually will (the 28 NATO 
members must approve it unanimously). Such optical saturation leads 
to what was obvious from the beginning; this will "transition" from a 
"coalition of the three willing" (US, Britain, France) to a NATO war.

If the Pentagon really applied its fabled "unique capabilities", the 
whole Gaddafi regime would be reduced to rubble in minutes. But 
that's a "limited mission" conducted by a "coalition" - not "regime 
change", although that's exactly what the president, the Europeans 
and most Arab dictators want. Talk about an "optics" red alert.

The Washington establishment is beaming that for the first time "the 
Arab public" is supporting an American intervention. Beware of the 
"optics" you pick. The "Arab public" is also making the connection 
that if Gaddafi shoots his own people and then gets bombed by the 
West, why should not the same thing happen to the dictators in Yemen 
and Bahrain? The "Arab public" can also clearly identify which 
methods Washington and the Europeans are using to try to appropriate 
the great 2011 Arab revolt to themselves.

For the moment, with so much fuzzy "optics", no think-tank dares 
predicting what the "coalition" will come up with if no-fly does not 
stop Gaddafi. Arming the rag-tag but very brave and ultra-motivated 
"rebels" - something already in effect - is mandated by UN resolution 
1953. Washington, London and Paris pray that soon the rebels may 
switch from defense to attack, march over Tripoli, topple the tyrant 
and provide everyone with a Hollywood ending.

It won't happen. The transitional council in Benghazi asked for a 
no-fly zone - not a foreign intervention. What Odyssey Dawn is 
providing is most of all heavy bombing of Tripoli - on the other side 
of the country. The people of Tripoli are starting to see this as the 
beginning of a new colonial war. This means that a post-Gaddafi 
political transition cannot possibly be peaceful. Perversely, Odyssey 
Dawn is laying the groundwork for the partition of Libya. Balkanization looms.

Any decent military analyst worth his single malt on the rocks knows 
nobody wins a war from the air. The humanitarian yearning is a 
smokescreen (why Libya and not Yemen, Bahrain, Gaza?) This is more 
like a new, very dangerous war theater in the Orientalist-named MENA 
East, Northern Africa), a warped Odyssey with no endgame and no end 
in sight. Now you see it, now you don't.

Pepe Escobar is the author of 
How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 
2007) and 
Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, 
just out, is 
does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia at yahoo.com.

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