For the record, I’d like to clarify one point about my column of last Tuesday: When I wrote that “There was no NATO discussion of the operation, no debate, no vote, no joint planning,” of the Libya mission, I meant that there was no political planning. As Ambassador Ivo Daalder rightly pointed out in his letter to the editor today, there was a great deal of military planning.
Nevertheless, Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which calls on alliance members to come to the aid of other members under attack, was not invoked. As one participant said to me, “There was little discussion about the advisability of the war.” There was certainly no agreement (and isn’t now) about its ultimate goals. Not everyone in the alliance understood that they were being asked to go to war. A number of countries were under the impression that (again I quote) “NATO was lending its services” and helping enforce the no-fly zone on behalf of a “coalition of the willing” consisting of the United States, Britain and France. Instead, the Libya bombardment has morphed into a full-fledged NATO operation – and it seems the alliance will be held responsible for its failure or success.
As the ambassador knows, many alliance members have enormous reservations about the political value of this operation. Not all of them are being voiced in public right now, but they may grow bolder later on. It would be a mistake for either American or NATO leaders to ignore them.