I suggested the other day that NATO was basically a zombie and that they had already lost - at least in terms of intended political consequences - the war in Libya. It hadn't occurred to me that within a few days there would be infighting, including between core European members of the alliance. Yet that's exactly what we're seeing. Amr Moussa, former head of the Arab League and a big proponent of the original operation is quoted in today's Guardian newspaper as calling for an immediate ceasefire. Moussa is angling for a kick at the Egyptian presidency this year or next and the optics just don't look very good of European fighter jets dropping bombs on an Arab country.
More seriously, Italy is now calling for an immediate ceasefire, while France is calling for an intensification. Italy - along with Germany - has the biggest European economic presence inside Libya. With it looking very unlikely that NATO will be able to oust Gaddafi, those two countries stand the most to lose if Libya retaliates by seizing the property of companies from belligerent countries. Italy has major oil investments in Libya.
If Italy's call for a ceasefire is picked up again by Germany, this could easily create an unstoppable momentum towards a solution that leaves the country looking exactly like it did before NATO came in and blew the hell out of the place - except that Gaddafi's hand has likely been strengthened by his ability to pose as an anti-imperialist. And if NATO leaves Libya with its tail between its legs, this will be the second in a row failure on the battlefield, after Afghanistan. The latter war is looking increasingly like it is starting to wind-down and that a settlement of some sort will be reached with the Taliban, allowing them into government or giving them control of part of the south of the country (according to commentary on Asia Times Online, this was the American proposal, which the Taliban rejected).
NATO has no pretensions of being like the UN, some kind of world parliament (where the big powers get a veto). It is solely a military alliance. But if the military alliance couldn't whup the widely despised dictator of a developing country with a population of six million; and if it can't subdue a ragtag insurgency led by a poorly armed and mostly illiterate guerilla army - then what the hell kind of military alliance is it? Not one that is of any use to America, I'm guessing. Already, departing Defence Secretary Gates has questioned the value of NATO. Look for some tedious soul-searching in the coming months. With the likely default in Greece - potentially a fatal blow to the euro - the discrediting of another venerable European institution is the last thing the ruling classes of Europe need.
Libya deaths trigger rift over NATO campaign - Africa - Al Jazeera English