Why We CAN’T Do Nothin’ About Libya (?)

Tango Seven-Six says LET IT BURN. Well, we might not have many other alternatives at hand, even if Our President was inclined to speak loudly and wield the big stick on his fellow African Muslim “Colonel” Khaddafy. I was wondering when someone was going to say, “Hey– where’s the Navy and Marine Corps?” (It’s not like we ain’t been to Tripoli before, all we’d need is new maps.)

Well, someone has. And it is very revealing.

Remember when naval forces could conduct non-combat evacuation operations [NEO] of American civilians in trouble? I do too, which is why I am very curious why after many weeks of governments falling on the North African coastline the US Navy doesn’t have any ships in the region capable of making it happen. …  So who is responsible for making sure the Navy is prepared for these type of operations when unrest is now into its seventh week in the region? Admiral Stavridis, Admiral Locklear, Vice Admiral Harris, or Rear Admiral Wary? Did any of these folks request a ship and get denied?

I believe also that the embarked Marines that would normally be serving as Landing Force 6th Fleet are in Afghanistan. Yes, OEF is a shooting war, but there’s a reason why we strive to maintain expeditionary forces in the forward regions– to handle contingencies. Like when nations undergo self-immolation and American citizens might need to be evacuated under non-permissive conditions. Yeah, like that.

Yet more interesting in that post is the comment about the Italian Navy task force being underway. Go ahead and laugh, get it out of your system, but here’s the bottom line– whatever you think of their military prowess they do have a fairly significant naval capability. Libya is a short sail from Italian ports and it would not be out of character for them to assert themselves. For one they certainly have citizens on the ground; also they probably have considerable commercial interests and a strong desire to wield influence in a former colonial possession. Sounds strange? Maybe but maybe not.

There are certain military capabilities that we don’t need often, but when we do, we need them now. The NEO is one of them. We used to practice it assiduously, as anyone who ever did an old MEU-SOC workup can testify. It’s a good thing the ferry with our folks made it out of port and over to Malta and that its difficulties were only weather-related. Luck’s a great thing, isn’t it? But it’s no foundation for a strategy. Next time we might need gray ships and black rifles, under the Stars and Stripes.


  1. GRRRRR says:

    Way to insult the commander in chief during wartime by calling him an "African Muslim" (when factually he is an American Christian, but what do facts and concepts like basic respect matter to right wingers?). I stopped reading a post that might otherwise have been interesting once you showed your true colors. So much for "civil discourse." Yeah, right, *I'm* the troll. [shakes head in disgust]

    • Judge says:

      @Grrrr – dunno about a troll, but you don't know the facts… 1) we don't know he's American – he's spent $3 million in attorney's fees refusing to do what every other President has done – present his original birth certificate. Also, at first HI said they had it and couldn't release it without obama's permission, now after forensic experts have stated his online 'Certificate of Live Birth" is a forgery, they now say they can't find it…

      And he's no Christian. His mentor is Rev Wright – who's funded by Khadafi, and who repeatedly denies Christ. There's a reason why Obama's been to church once since he was elected… Also Khadafi call's obama his muslim brother and friend…. you think his friends know him or not???

      You need to quit getting so pissy over the facts. Denying them or demanding everyone else ignore them never really helps.

      • GRRRRR says:

        Thanks for sharing your insane conspiracy theories justifying your baseless hatred of the President. Now go back to koo koo world or Glenn Beck's anus or wherever you come from.

        • LtCol P says:


          HA!! "Anus"– one of my favorite words, guar-an-TEED to make me laugh. Not as funny as "rectum," mind you, but still a classic. Nice! You made my evening!!

  2. YatYas says:

    As part of the 26th MEU(SOC) in early 1997, we did Operation Silver Wake and pulled non-essential personnel/families out of Albania as well as protected the Embassy. During that time, they split the ARG and sent the "Death Star"(LHA) to Zaire. In 2006, while watching the news saw the USS Nashville (which I had been on in 1997) doing a NEO off Lebanon. Maybe, it's just a different administration.

  3. PSYOP Cop says:

    NEO's are done under very specific circumstances (logistical and political) and are generally a last-resort operation. The State Dept. prefers to simply move civilians out via commercial means (usually airlines, this time a chartered ferry) instead of initiating a show-of-force, which is partly what a NEO is.

    Perhaps we would have had to enter Libyan airspace without permission (meaning a CVBG would be needed to sweep the skies initially before sending in helicopters and Ospreys under escort, still risking civilian lives in the air on the way out). Perhaps a "deal" was made on the ground for our AMCIT's to be permitted to move out of the country (likely what occured).

    Either way, our people are out safe, which is the ultimate objective.

  4. Bill Cooper says:

    And we're going to pay for it with our Bank of China credit card? Again? WTF is wrong with you LtColP; don't we have enough problems in our own house without you wanting to invade another country? Want to see the Marines win at least one in your lifetime? And what's this crap about "…his fellow african muslim….? Your South of the Ohio River white trash just can't bear the fact that America has a black president, can you? It's your blog, and you can do whatever you want with it, but if I want this never-ending "He's not one of us" crap, I'll watch Faux news. Thanks to you, I have had it with your blog. Townie, I'll miss you and our e-mail exchanges. LtColP, go wallow in your hate.

  5. LtCol P says:

    Awright, fellas, take a step back. (Bill, check your email.)

    No hate here, just venting. AND yes, poking the nest a little. Perhaps you didn't note that I typed "fellow African Muslim" but then thought the better of it and crossed it out? I did that for a reason. POTUS and his administration have been dilatory and somewhat contradictory in the handling of North Africa's crises. It is quite possible to get caught off guard completely with one crisis, but there was a bow wave here that they ought to have seen coming. I am concerned that, for the good of the country, they missed more than one opportunity. And I'd like to know the root of his worldview, because it certainly is curious.

    And y'all missed the larger point– a strategic misstep that any President might have made, to wit, leaving a region uncovered. Any President might have made it, but this one did. Strategic decisions and force allocations have consequences. No, I do not want to see us invade another country. I was merely pointing out that one of the reasons we have the forward deployed expeditionary forces is for contingencies like this. It's like carrying a handgun– I might not ever need it, and I might not want to use it, but when I *need* it, I need it now, and the alternatives are less than pleasant.

    Lastly– "South of the Ohio River white trash"?? :-O White trash maybe, it all depends on who's eye is beholding me, but I'm more South of the Potomac. :-)

  6. DaveO says:

    BLUF: The folks in charge have no clue what they're supposed to have done already, and be doing now.

    NEO is generally done under some rather unique circumstances. NEO requires close cooperation between DOD, DOS, and some other agencies – all under the aegis of the NSA. SecDef Gates has never done a NE., nor has his top staff. SecState Clinton can't press that reset button enough to matter. The NSA used to be General Jones, but now it's a Tom Donilon – a career Democrat bureaucrat with an impressive resume. As an underling.

    We do need to get them all out now, before they become hostages for whomever fills the power vacuum. The Middle East took a far different lesson from the 444-day-hostages.

    The situation on the ground has gone too far for a non-violent NEO. We'd need a MEB, a fair portion of the fleet, and enough birds from Italy to get all of the Americans out. Each time a Muslim state that overthrows its dictator, the level of violence grows. Consider the continuum of Tunisia to Egypt to Libya to Yemen to… Saudi Arabia and France will be next.

    From a strategic standpoint, this uprising business is a beautiful thing. The 5th and 6th Fleets busy doing NEO, or running after pirates – but always out of position, too far away. Israel, ISAF, and our forces in Iraq becoming more isolated. Perhaps that's why our government is hesitating?

  7. tricycle says:

    Has anyone considered that the show of naval force was possible, considered, but declined?

    Given the general "anti-west" sentiment which has proven popular in North Africa and the Middle East, the presence of an American military vessel might allow some of those recently or soon-to-be deposed dictators to blame the uprising on reasons other than the real discontent which exists- thereby dissuading at least a portion of the protesters. As it stands, we are visibly "just getting our people out" while allowing the native populations to rise on their own. I have no doubt that we have friendlies nearby ready to act if the need presents itself, but in a covert fashion.

    Mr. Cooper presents one valid point re: "paying for it with our Bank of China credit card"- why pay for resources when our general objectives are being accomplished by the native populations? Why insert ourselves VISIBLY into a situation which appears to be tipping in our favor already?

    I certainly hope that we can draw on our significant past investments and capitalize on our current investments to further stack the chips to our benefit, both regionally and globally. Additionally, we need to employ our brothers in our own state department and our international friends to influence the outcome as much as possible.

    I will never be accused of defending our current president on most any issue, apart from his ability to politic… BUT I do think that the light colonel's obviously stated, and obviously discarded comment "fellow African Muslim" could actually be beneficial. While those 3 little words insight extreme reactions from both "those crazy right wingers" and "those idiot lefties"- the reaction that matters, at this specific moment, is that of those angry people who populate North Africa and the Middle East. If the president, regardless of domestic opinion, can use this perception (real or not) to make America (and her ideals) attractive to those populations- then go forth and conquer.

    I will make a side comment: I am disappointed that so many intelligent and educated commentators on this site digress to unnecessary and personal attacks instead of focusing on facts and resolution. We have an unusual resource here which seems to attract the best and brightest, so let's act accordingly. Keep your comments, like your personal conduct, professional and we will ALL learn something. thatisall.

    • DaveO says:

      Who declines to secure and save American lives?

    • GRRRRR says:

      Couldn't agree more, Tricycle, except for one point: I hardly think I'm an "idiot leftie" for finding an obvious lie about the President offensive. Sometimes, there is no "he said, she said." Ann Coulter who says liberals should be shot and she wishes the terrorists had blown up the NYT building is not the equivalent of Michael Moore. Glenn Beck who says he'd like to see Michael Moore murdered, has ruined prominent lives' with death threats from his unbalanced followers, and the like, is not equivalent of Keith Olberman. A Republican Congressmen yelling "you lie" at the President during the State of the Union is not the same as a distasteful comment on the DailyKos website about President Bush that makes it past the moderator. There is no "well, both sides do it." Sometimes there is just crazy right wing talk, and it should be called out for the poison that it is. I hope you will join me.

      • DaveO says:

        What does your rant have to do with the question: "Who declines to secure and save American lives?"

        Securing and safeguarding American lives is a very old tradition, sparking several quasi-wars with France and the Barbary pirates, and with the UK in 1812. The same ethos played into America's entry into WWI (e.g. Lusitania). Failure to safeguard American lives led to the 444-day hostage situation in Tehran, Iran, in 1979-80.

        So tricycle, please answer the question. Who declines to secure and save American lives?

        • GRRRRR says:

          I wasn't replying to you, Dave, I was replying to Tricycle, and addressing a different point. If I was replying to you my post would have been under yours but indented a little to the right.

    • USMC Steve says:


      True they are aint pro-western, but who cares. If our citizens are doing nothing to merit being endangered by crazed arabs, we have an obligation to go get them out of there. A NEO/NISH operation is just that. It presents no threat other than to match any threat offered by the OPFOR. And I for one don't care if they hate us or not, but one thing for sure, when the first Marines start landing, they will take a step back and let us do the evacuation. They know we will not fire first but if we have to shoot, a shitpot of them will bleed before we are done.

      • PSYOP Cop says:

        USMC Steve, a NEO was completely uneccesary in this situation. Mandatory evacuation was enough and the State Dept. had the security assets it needed to execute this safely.

        I don't know the exact stats, but I can tell you that voluntary and mandatory evacuations of Embassies and/or consulates occur far more often than full-blown NEO's. I believe several of our consulates in northern Mexico are still under voluntary evacuation status. Embassy Antananarivo conducted a mandatory evacuation about two years ago because of political unrest in that country without having to conduct a NEO and really without a huge fuss in the media.

        Again, had it been necessary, I know the Marines and Navy could have executed. No question. However, sending the Marines, regardless of their objective, into a foreign country without that country's permission, raises the stakes CONSIDERABLY. If there is no alternative, wonderful… send 'em in and kick ass and take names and rescue the Americans. Plenty of glory for everyone. But… BUT… if it's NOT necessary, you do it quickly and quietly and without anyone noticing.

        It's the whole "walk softly" half of diplomacy that TR believed in.

  8. Doug says:

    I had heard on Fox and CNN that the ferry carrying Americans was being guarded by an unnamed US Special Forces group while it was stuck at the dock waiting out the weather. True? I don't really know, but if it is that might have been the best way to protect our people and yet not make a big scene that could have prompted Col. Crazy to do something truly stupid.

    • DaveO says:

      Doug, it's not Colonel Crazy who is worrisome. It is the Iranian Republican Guards in Libya, and the local affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood.

      Nice to see the Chinese have learned from one of our finer naval traditions: sending a warship to ensure the safety and security of China's citizens. Well done China.

  9. tricycle says:

    Please excuse my absence, the nature of my schedule can keep me away from an actual computer for days at a time. Thank goodness for smart phones.

    GRRRR: minor rabbit trail: "crazy right wingers" and "idiot lefties" were merely names used to personify the members of each "side" by the extreme terms used by the opposing side. While both certainly exist, it was not my intention to classify anyone here to be among them. My apologies for poorly chosen words.

    I will agree (unapologetically) that anyone who calls for violence against another American for political reasons is WAY off base and should be dismissed entirely and their comments condemned as the filth they are. The "you lie" comment was certainly inappropriate (I both lament at the lack of civility and common sense, but rejoice in the free speech) but does not belong among the same class as the aforementioned totally-unacceptable-comments: it is tasteless, but protected, speech. I will SPECULATE (due to the fact that I have neither the time nor the desire to research the topic) that the same "totally-unacceptable" comments made toward the current president (and his fellow "lefties") were made toward the former president (and his former "righties")- hence the uselessness in arguing the topic. Unintelligent people exist; I choose to ignore the chaff. I wish this site had a "political hate speech" section to filter out the unnecessary comments which detract and distract from the actual points that are worth discussion.

    DAVE-O: the question was "Who declines to secure and save American lives?"- my answer is "someone who lacks either the knowledge or the guts to do so." To my knowledge (please, correct me if I am wrong) there were zero American losses, military or civilian, in this whole fiasco. That SINGLE point changes the discussion, simply because the evacuation seems to have been successful (should the news change as more is known, this would also change the discussion). Had there been loss of American life, then the actions exercised would be rightly criticised as faulty- but given the current outcome, it is only fair to say that the actions were "successful"- regardless of who is in charge. On the other hand, had overt military action been employed, and (through the fog of war) American lives been lost- the action in that case would be rightly criticised as faulty.

    As I am not a member of the security council, I do not know what actions were or weren't taken to achieve this successful evacuation. I believe (OPINION, not "gospel" ) that some of our "high-speed-low-drag" people were present for critical parts of the evacuation at the direction of POTUS, or SECDEF to ensure a favorable outcome.

    I will comment lower in the post to answer further questions, but I wanted to both apologize for the delay and answer the questions presented. I stand in a position to learn greatly from both of you- so please, save the domestic political discussions for the appropriate blogs (which I also read, mostly for entertainment) and use your enviable base of knowledge on the topics at hand to educate and better everyone.

    • DaveO says:


      Welcome back! Thank you for answering my question.

      Non-combatant evacuations have occurred before, also without loss of American life, but that metric falls into the realm of 'so far.' So far, no American is dead. But given that we know there is murderous violence being done, and that we know there are anti-American elements in country (e.g. Iran's Republican Guard), and that ignorance and panic are twin exponents, the political calculus says extract them all before it gets worse.

      Marines are particularly good at this operation. They enjoy a well deserved reputation for delivering The Beat Down on thugs, evacuating civilians, and generally getting excellent press while doing it. So… where were the Marines?

      The time it took for action to be authorized and pre-made plans set into motion speaks to larger issues: ignorance (inexcusable), system failure (inexcusable), cowardice (inexcusable), or willfullness (Holy Crap!).

      I'm going with a combo of ignorance and system failure.

  10. tricycle says:

    USMC Steve and PSYOP: strangely, I agree with you both(confusing to me as well). I believe PSYOP basically stated my point: use the least amount of force necessary to accomplish the necessary goal. While fleeing citizens might not attract the ire of either the government or the "rebel" forces, a military presence might have attracted the attention of both (given the unfriendly opinions toward us). Sure, our Marines (or SEALs, soldiers, etc…) would have dealt death and destruction without fail, but (as the situation stands- see above reply to GRRRR and DAVE-O) if the mission was "operation: evacuate civilians"- we stand under the "mission accomplished" banner.

  11. GRRRRR says:

    The problem is we say we want democracy but democracy is messy so what we really want is stability. You didn't really believe Bush when he said he wanted to "spread free-dumb" throughout the Middle East, did you? Sheesh, look at all these authoritarian regimes we were backing. Why did we back them? Stability, that's why. Now democracy movements are sweeping the region, courtesy of simple human desire for a better life and blowback against oppressive regimes cutting government services, and we're rattling the sabers again. This is supposed to be what we all wanted so give it a chance before you criticize Obama for not immediately sending in your favorite acronyms and making a delicate situation worse.

  12. GRRRRR says:

    The word certainly has its uses, Colonel ;)

  13. kurye says:


    True they are aint pro-western, but who cares. If our citizens are doing nothing to merit being endangered by crazed arabs, we have an obligation to go get them out of there. A NEO/NISH operation is just that. It presents no threat other than to match any threat offered by the OPFOR. And I for one don’t care if they hate us or not, but one thing for sure, when the first Marines start landing, they will take a step back and let us do the evacuation. They know we will not fire first but if we have to shoot, a shitpot of them will bleed before we are done.

    • tricycle says:


      This post seems strangely familiar…now if I could just remember where I read it.

      Kurye- welcome to the discussion. Were you simply agreeing with the earlier comment or did you intend to add to it? If you intended to add, please share- I am interested to hear your thoughts.