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First lessons of the operation in Libya. The winners, the losers

(BRUSSELS2) The military operation and the aftermath of the conflict in Libya can be observed from different points of view. If predicting the future of current developments in Libya may seem risky - between a democratic miracle and extremism - we can never say enough how much the outcome of the Libyan conflict has an interest for the future. On the Middle East side, it constitutes a key element of what must be called a remodeling of the Near and Middle East. Next could be Syria, while waiting for Iran? It can constitute a guarantee so that developments in Tunisia on the one hand and Egyptian developments on the other can continue without risk of “rear” destabilization. On the southern side, we can hope that the government of the new Libya will engage in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel zone. Its traditional weight in the African Union - Libya is one of the founding states - could allow the French (and British) to have an additional point of support. If we turn to Europe: Libya has undeniable resources, is a land of welcome for European labor targeted as a final “wall” to immigration from black Africa. In short, wherever you turn, Libya proves to be a hub.

We can then have fun drawing up a portrait of the winners and losers of the conflict. This portrait is often summary, simplifying. It will be necessary to bring nuances to it and revise it regularly because reversals are always to be expected, in the more or less long term. But it has the advantage of setting trends.

The winners…

France returns to Africa. For France, there is an undeniable return to favor on the African continent, with operations in Ivory Coast and Libya helping. France is no longer quite the friendly and severe uncle of the post-colonial era. but it remains a solid ally in military matters (or an adversary, it depends). In short, a “policeman”. Sarkozy's bet was risky. It was successful. It could make it possible to reconquer part of the ground lost for several years, since a period that can be dated back to 1994, to the Rwandan genocide.

The Franco-British couple held. He remained united in action. The operation in Libya is the practical demonstration of the political and military agreement between Paris and London. It demonstrates better than any exercise in beet fields that the two armies can act, if not together, at least in concert or side by side.

European armies have proven their ability. They can intervene in a limited conflict, on their doorstep, over a period which is not a few days. It is a success, at the cost of some technical prowess, despite the budget cuts they are facing. But he cannot hide the serious shortcomings already noted in the past: refueling vessels, intelligence assets, satellites – loaned by the Americans. Without this discreet but useful competition, the Europeans would have been condemned to making circles in the water. In the ongoing reduction in the size and budget of the armies, a reorientation of available funds will have to take place to fill these “holes”. And urgently.

THEuseful fighter aircraft (and the Rafale). The operation in Libya is for fighter aviation an indisputable demonstration of its usefulness just as the anti-piracy operation is an essential guarantee for the usefulness of the navy. In the same way, the attack helicopters did well. For Dassault, and its Rafale, it is also the first full-scale test that it lacked to be able to prove its effectiveness. This will not be enough to compensate for its serious marketing handicap. But this allows it to be revived.

A victory for NATO. The Atlantic Alliance demonstrated that despite a notable division within it, it was capable of successfully carrying out a military operation in the Mediterranean area. This is the revenge on Iraq – where it had been ruled out – and on Afghanistan – where the stalemate is notable. Despite the fact that the operation was sometimes NATO only in name – the autonomy of certain countries being notable – and the internal difficulties, it allowed other countries – such as Belgium, Norway, Denmark … – to join the avant-garde group made up of the French, British, Canadians and Americans. It thus revives the success of Kosovo.

Qatar. It now appears to be one of the solid countries of the Alliance. The Emir of Qatar was the only one present at the press conference on New Libya, alongside David Cameron and Ban Ki Moon. He had the honors of a working session in particular with Nicolas Sarkozy and Alain Juppé.


THEEuropean Union. Everything is not dark. Certainly the European Union has managed relations with Libya from a technical point of view. And the diplomatic system has, all in all, worked well. The sanctions mechanism was put in place quickly and without firing a shot. But she lacked one impetuous political, of an ambition, of a will to overcome ambiguities. The failure of Eufor Libya, a stillborn operation, will go down in history.

THEGermany. More than its position (of neutrality), it is for its confused position that Germany appears weakened. Not content with abstaining, it withdrew its ships from the entire Mediterranean theater, dragging its feet in recognizing the CNT, while claiming to support NATO. In short, incomprehensible.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).