In Barack Obama's Monday night address on Libya, which took place well over a week after he began waging offensive war on Libya, the president touted the fact that the U.S. military, which had been responsible or the vast majority of military action to that point, would soon be handing off the mission to allies and, apparently, fading into the background to let those allies handle the rest of the military activity. He said:
Our most effective alliance, NATO, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and No Fly Zone. Last night, NATO decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians. This transfer from the United States to NATO will take place on Wednesday. Going forward, the lead in enforcing the No Fly Zone and protecting civilians on the ground will transition to our allies and partners, and I am fully confident that our coalition will keep the pressure on Gaddafi’s remaining forces. In that effort, the United States will play a supporting role – including intelligence, logistical support, search and rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications. Because of this transition to a broader, NATO-based coalition, the risk and cost of this operation – to our military, and to American taxpayers – will be reduced significantly.
Of course, there is that pesky little fact that this highly touted handoff of the Libya warfare from a U.S.-dominated military coalition to NATO is, essentially, a highwayman's shift from one U.S. hand to another. Yes, the NATO commander assigned to lead the campaign against Libya is Canadian, but both his boss and the military commander of NATO are American Admirals (the senior of which is more than a little concerned about who it is we're really helping in Libya). Further, even with the rest of the NATO alliance (all 27 non-U.S. nations) becoming de jure participants in the war on Libya, the chief military force within that alliance remains (as it has ever been) the United States.
So congratulations, President Obama. You and your flacks have spent a not insignificant amount of time and breath bragging about the impending handoff of the Libya war effort from the U.S. to...the U.S.
This "handoff," which Obama bragged was set for today, is supposedly in progress, though reports came out yesterday that the plan had hit a snag somewhere in the assumedly difficult process of handing over a war effort from an American General to an American Admiral.
Oh, and for what it's worth, the coalition which will be "taking over" the effort is still only 2/3 the size of that which President Bush took into Iraq.