Sunday, April 17, 2011

Performance Must Be Irrelevant

This is, what, day 98 of the NATO intervention in Libya? The one designed to stop civilian deaths, whatever that means when the combatants are all in civilian clothing. The thing has become a slow-motion meat grinder, but no one seems to be looking at the basic math and comparing it to what we wanted to do in the first place. Here's the equation:

Total deaths = death rate * duration of conflict.

By intervening, we prevented the death rate from spiking, but stretched the duration. Consider one more equation:

Total destruction of cities = destruction rate * duration of conflict.

Since the goal on both sides was liquidation of the enemy, there was an upper limit on the destruction rate. In fact, since losing their tanks, Gaddafi's troops have resorted to shelling indiscriminately and the destruction rate now is probably higher than it would have been had we done nothing. The end result of our white-gloved intervention is likely to be at least as many deaths and a lot more destruction.

Who cares? Does it even matter? Is it all OK so long as we feel good about ourselves? Everyone is measuring success by whether or not Gaddafi will be killed or forced out. Meanwhile, the original purpose of our intervention, protecting civilians, is in shambles.

Napoleon once said, “If you start to take Vienna - take Vienna.” Don't do things in half measures. Way back when this all started, I was in favor of removing Gaddafi. What I had in mind was more of a Mafia rubout than this prissy failure. I'd have sent in sufficient forces, destroyed the Gaddafi compoud, killed or captured Gaddafi and then left leaving a note along the lines of this: "This is what happens to people what cross the US."

This fellow is not a member of the Obama foreign policy advisory team.

In the end, it's a good bet that Gaddafi will lose. The Obama Administration will claim success and his 3,000 press secretaries in the media will trumpet his brilliant strategy. In the meantime, we've failed utterly at accomplishing what we set out to do.


Whittlin' Man - formerly "Lawman" said...

I've never been a supporter of half-a$$ed military operations. I've seen way to many of my brothers and sisters in arms pay the ultimate price for "feel good" policies.

If you're going to commit combat forces, then do so the way Gen. Sherman marched on Atlanta. Otherwise, you should just stay on the porch and bark.

tim eisele said...

"If you're going to commit combat forces, then do so the way Gen. Sherman marched on Atlanta."

You mean, without lines of communication or support, and restricted to living off the land and with no options other than to either keep going forward, or die?

It seems to me that Sherman took an awfully big chance. He succeeded and is remembered as a military genius. But, if he had misjudged how close the Confederacy was to collapse, he could just as easily have failed. If they'd had the resources to stop his march, he'd have been unable to turn back and would have been wiped out with his entire command. And he would be remembered as an even bigger blunderer than Custer.

Dean said...

I'm thinking WM meant "Sherman" as in "total commitment". Back in mid 19th century, total commitment most likely meant outrunning your lines of logistics and communications and thus having to effect a scorched earth policy and living off the land.

Having the most advanced military in the world means we don't have to risk what Sherman did but apparently we weren't prepared to go anywhere near that commitment.

Dean said...

KT, as long as it was a multi-lateral effort, it doesn't matter what the outcome will be.

This was about appearances, getting Samantha Power off his back and distracting us from the trainwreck here at home and not... repeat, not about actual results.