April 8, 2011

Libya: What might have been

A German commenter, Headache, offers an alternative history of the Libyan War, in which it has already been won:
This was France's war, and if the US and EU had stayed out of it, France would have repeated the Toyota war tactics which so effectively crushed Gadfly in Chad: Mirage air cover coupled with Foreign Legion dressed up as nomads on Toyota pickups with AA guns and Milan anti-tank weapons. This would have been over by now, except Sark would have claimed victory and made Uncle Sucker look stupid.  
So instead, coz the US does not want to be seen as a bully, we now have the ineffective and expensive NFZ, make-believe Obamaesque withdrawal of US planes, and musings about partition, arming the incompetent rebels (who include AQ elements) and other blowback which Ron Paul routinely warns against.


25 comments:

Chicago said...

But what would victory, in this scenario, and it's longer term outcome, look like?

Anonymous said...

"But what would victory, in this scenario, and it's longer term outcome, look like?"

Lower world oil prices.

jody said...

i don't really know what's going on at this point.

Whiskey said...

The problem Steve is that Libya is not say, Chad. Khadaffi could afford to lose in Chad, not so in Libya (where he'll be dead shortly after leaving power). Moreover, Khadaffi may be crazy but he's not stupid. His mercenaries have proved highly adaptive (human shields, infiltration attacks, etc.) that negate Western Air power.

France has a toy military capable of intervening in say, Ivory Coast, but not against real opponents able and willing to dig in.

You can't get something for nothing. Bottom line, want to avoid Camp of the Saints, you'd better have a big military and be willing to use it.

Harry Baldwin said...

I notice that the chief Republican criticism of Obama's handling of the war is that he should have intervened three weeks earlier, "when it would have mattered."

Watching how inept, disorganized, and few in number these rebels turned out to be, does anyone besides McCain and Lieberman still believe that three weeks would have made much difference?

Anonymous said...

But how would that accomplish the American goal of helping radical Islam?

George Dubya Obama said...

I notice that the chief Republican criticism of Obama's handling of the war is that he should have intervened three weeks earlier, "when it would have mattered."

Watching how inept, disorganized, and few in number these rebels turned out to be, does anyone besides McCain and Lieberman still believe that three weeks would have made much difference?


McCain and Lieberman are perhaps the leading neocon RINOs of the GOP.

They Neocon RINOs would be as inept as Obama only consciously rushing headlong into ill conceived foreign policy instead of semi-consciously dithering into it ass-backward like Obama.

Anonymous said...


But how would that accomplish the American goal of helping radical Islam?


But how would that accomplish the Obama goal of helping radical Islam?

There, fixed that for you.

Anonymous said...

But if we'd won already, how could we stay in and lose like the liberals always want? You know, like JFK pulling the Bay of Pigs air cover, or Iraq after Colin Powell shifted the goal from 'get Saddam' to ''Break it you buy it, we must stay till Iraq looks like Ozzie and Harriet'. . .

Liberals. Improving America's foreign policy just like they improved Detroit, and Gary Indiana, and the Imperial Valley, and the inner cities, and . . .

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Lower world oil prices.

I see this crap all the time.

How much oil is currently being held off the market by supposedly recalcitrant oil-producing nations? Would they behave any differently under anyone's theoretical free market conditions? (I assume Exxon doesn't sell every ounce of oil it has laying around either).

Is there some "true market price" for oil which it exceeds right now? Post your calculations.

Has the cost of maintaining over-large, tricked out militaries, foreign aid, environmental restrictions in the US, etc., been netted out of this ideal price?

Put up or shut up, "cheap oil" advocates.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Also - what is the public mood in France for the Bantam Rooster's war? How enthusiastic are the French general staff and troops about this war for cheap oil for American SUV's?

Does the French military have any men left in it like the ones who held command during the Indochina and Algerian wars? I really doubt it.

Svigor said...

The problem Steve is that Libya is not say, Chad. Khadaffi could afford to lose in Chad, not so in Libya (where he'll be dead shortly after leaving power).

I was thinking the same thing. 'Cept in my head I was spelling it "Ghaddaffey."

David said...

We should listen to George Washington, not to George Bush. See especially paragraphs 31-42.

Certainly, no one should listen to these ung-dly people. Outside agitators indeed.

Mr. Anon said...

"Chicago said...

But what would victory, in this scenario, and it's longer term outcome, look like?"

I don't know what it will look like, but I'm sure it will smell like napalm.

Anonymous said...

Of course America COULD HAVE just minded its own business in the first place and just stayed out of it altogether.

ATBOTL said...

"Willing to use it" for who?

elvisd said...

"I see this crap all the time.

How much oil is currently being held off the market by supposedly recalcitrant oil-producing nations? Would they behave any differently under anyone's theoretical free market conditions? (I assume Exxon doesn't sell every ounce of oil it has laying around either).

Is there some "true market price" for oil which it exceeds right now? Post your calculations.

Has the cost of maintaining over-large, tricked out militaries, foreign aid, environmental restrictions in the US, etc., been netted out of this ideal price?

Put up or shut up, "cheap oil" advocates."

Nobody can bear the sight of a full input/output analysis for ANY topic, which is for me the main theme of Steve's blog.

Matra said...

How enthusiastic are the French general staff and troops about this war for cheap oil for American SUV's?

The last poll I saw had support for the Libyan war at 69% in France. Yet more evidence that the French suffer from imperial nostalgia.

Anonymous said...

I read a lot of tank books. This is a well established literary genre. Osprey publishes dozens of little books about Panthers versus Shermans and other WWII pairings.

They are all very entertaining but one trend is clear. A Toyota truck with a Ma Deuce in its bed is the equal of yesterday's Main Battle Tank. OK, that's hyperbole. But you shouldn't sneer at Toyotas as if real soldiers only fight with an Abrams or a Bradley.

In WWII US tank tactics were about managing to position your Sherman so as to avoid a frontal armor to frontal armor shootout. A Sherman had two inches whereas the German Panthers and Tigers had at least four.

But none of that mattered if you had air cover. All tanks had less than a half inch of armor over their engines. That's why in Saving Private Ryan they refer to the P-51 as a tank killer with only .50 caliber guns.

No tank ever made could survive an encounter with an A-10 Warthog or a modern attack helicopter. Its also hyperbole to say that heavy tanks are obsolete - but not by much. With air superiority, if you can see it you can kill it.

Without heavy armor on the battlefield you don't need those 120mm smooth bore cannons with depleted uranium cores and discarding sabots. Suddenly a mere 50 caliber machine gun is very formidable.

North Africa is good for air power and bad for heavy armor. Rommel's tanks were light tanks and still they were too thirsty.

Russia won against Hitler with American (Ford) trucks. They made their own tanks. Our trucks were at least as important as their T-34s.

Finally armed civilian trucks are stealthy, get good mileage, and can handle soft sand. You can flood an area with dozens of Toyotas for the price of one Main Battle Tank.

In the future there may very well be more "Toyota Wars". Have some respect.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

I notice that the chief Republican criticism of Obama's handling of the war is that he should have intervened three weeks earlier, "when it would have mattered."

Watching how inept, disorganized, and few in number these rebels turned out to be, does anyone besides McCain and Lieberman still believe that three weeks would have made much difference?


I'm of the opinion that we have a government for the same reason that we pay accountants and garbage collectors - so we don't have to do the things they do ourselves. The older I get, the clearer it becomes that accountants and garbage collectors are way more competent than any government employee or politician.

TGGP said...

It's an odd thing to experience, but I agree with Svigor and Whiskey.

David Davenport said...

That's why in Saving Private Ryan they refer to the P-51 as a tank killer with only .50 caliber guns.

No, movies are not the same as reality, particularly with respect to details.

The US Army Air Forces' prefered WWII anti-tank weapons were 250 or 500 pound high explosive bombs, or [nominal diameter] 4.5 or 5 inch rockets. Napalm was also used in, I think, 250 and 500 lb. nominal sizes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_velocity_aircraft_rocket

The HVAR was normally used to attack tanks, trains and bunkers. More than one million HVARs were built, and the rocket saw widespread service in World War II and the Korean War before production ended in 1955.[1]

The P-39 and P-63 aircraft also used a 37mm gun as an air to ground weapon. The USAAF disdained those aircraft but the Soviets didn't. An interesting WWII sidelight:

Cobras over the Tundra - Paperback (Oct. 1, 1992) by Everett A. Long, Irina Balayeva, Podvig, Berezhnoy. V, et al.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=cobras+over+the+tundra&x=0&y=0

This books tells a relatively unknown story, the story about how American Lend-Lease aircraft were transfered to Russia. From the 14.500-odd planes that went to the Russians during WW2, almost 8.000 went by the ALSIB route (Alaska-Siberia). 2.618 of these were Airacobras, 2.397 of them Kingcobras. This book describes how it was done and by whom, both in English and in Russian.

That should be "2,618" and "2,397."

none of the above said...

TGGP:

Isn't this called the life-dinner principle?

The nice thing about this kind of war is that it's not even about dinner for us. We stand to spend a lot of money (which we borrow, so we can forget that we're dumping irreplaceable wealth down a sewer), and maybe lose a few soldiers' lives, but we're not likely to pay a higher price than that. And we stand to win even less--about the most we can hope for is some fleeting gratitude from the victorious rebels, just before they start purging one another in hopes of ending up in charge of everything.

none of the above said...

Albertosaurus:

Surely the future is more likely to have robots than people driving the trucks. Robots will probably not need much armor--better to make more and faster vehicles than fewer, slower ones, all else being equal.

One day, we'll fight someone in our own technological league. And I rather suspect we'll get a painful lesson in all the ways our wars with third-world peasants over nothing have shaped us in the wrong ways, rather like all the great European colonial powers did when their armies discovered the difference between shooting at bare-assed savages with muskets or spears, and shooting at Europeans with machine guns and barbed wire and artillery.

Anonymous said...

"But none of that mattered if you had air cover. All tanks had less than a half inch of armor over their engines. That's why in Saving Private Ryan they refer to the P-51 as a tank killer with only .50 caliber guns."

As someone else noted above, bombs and rockets were used for reliable tank busting; a 0.50" (12.7x99mm) Browning machine gun is not much use against even thin armor, especially since you aren't firing straight down on to the armor over the engines, but at an angle.

For tank busting from aircraft, if you wanted to use a gun, you needed something big bore and high velocity (the low velocity 37mm in the P-39 wasn't ideal). Two examples of this are the 40mm armed Hurricanes that the RAF used in North Africa, and the 37mm armed Stukas of the Luftwaffe.

Some Stuka 37mm footage for you war nerds out there:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLPchQ2AbUo

And for balance some Hurricane 40mm footage:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ix5xN8hlGLo