How Germany Can Help Establish Democracy in Libya:

by Matt Conner, Towson University

Germany should provide military advisors, special forces and air-support, as well as, offer economic and humanitarian aid to the UN-backed, Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya.  Supporting the GNA could enable Germany to minimize the risk of Islamic State (IS) terrorism in Europe by controlling the flow of refugees and migrants, as well as limit Russian influence in Northern Africa and the Middle East.   The Germans can accomplish this by deploying military advisors, special forces, and fighter aircraft to assist GNA military operations in Tripoli and Western Libya.  German economic and humanitarian aid could help the GNA provide basic government functions for the local population, and lead to an increase in the perceived legitimacy of the GNA.  The increased popular support could lead to greater cooperation with rival militant groups and create a GNA army that could be used to defeat the Islamic State (IS) and Ansar Al-Sharia (ASL), as well as the Russian-backed Libya National Army (LNA) in Eastern Libya.

Why Germany?

In 2015, Germany’s position as the fourth largest global economy, and its generous policies regarding refugees and asylum-seekers made the country an attractive destination for 890,000 Middle-Eastern and African migrants.  In 2016, security concerns regarding IS operatives entering Germany disguised as refugees, arose after IS claimed responsibility for nine terrorist attacks in France, Belgium, and Germany.  Today, enhanced security and border controls along the Turkish and Greek borders has made it more difficult for migrants to access Western and Central Europe through the Balkans.   Because of the partial route closure, Libya has become the preferred point of departure for Middle Eastern and African migrants seeking to enter Europe.

Before 2011, Germany and the EU relied heavily on former Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, to control migration between Libya and Europe.  However, the migration control provided by the Gaddafi regime ended, when the leader was killed by NATO-backed rebels in the “Arab Spring” uprising.  The Arab Spring was a failed democracy movement supported by the U.S. and NATO that aimed to establish democratic rule in Syria, Egypt, and Libya.  The lack of a legitimate government and maritime law enforcement made it easier for migrants to attempt the deadly migration across the Mediterranean.  Though migration numbers have decreased since Germany imposed greater restrictions on immigration, the possibility of terrorist infiltration remains a significant security concern.  German support of the GNA would help to establish a democratic government and increase Libyan maritime enforcement.

In addition to reducing the risk posed by transnational terrorism in Libya, the establishment of the GNA in Libya could help to limit Russian influence in the Mediterranean.  Russia’s growing perception as a power-broker in the Middle-East and North Africa affords Russia greater influence and recognition in world affairs.  One of Germany’s political objectives is to stop Russian aggression towards former Soviet Socialist Republics (SSRs) in Eastern Europe.  The Russian President Vladimir Putin is widely regarded as seeking to re-establish the territorial boundaries of the former 18th century Russian Empire and the USSR, calling the collapse of the USSR in 1991, “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century”.  Russian influence in the Middle East and North Africa could provide Putin with the necessary political capital – or advantage over political opponents – that could affect outcomes and challenge German interests around the world.

In November 2016, Russian president Vladimir Putin, hosted General Khalifa Haftar in Moscow to discuss the Libyan civil war.  Gen. Haftar is the leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA) a loose coalition of militias that control most of Eastern Libya.  Once seen by the U.S. and its allies as a pro-democracy alternative to Gaddafi, Gen. Haftar refuses to recognize the U.N. brokered GNA, and instead, seeks to align Libya under his own self-styled military rule.  The LNA controls the valuable oil refineries in Eastern Libya, after re-capturing them from the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), a faction loyal to the GNA.  There is evidence that Putin deployed Russian special forces and drones to Egypt in support of Haftar and the LNA advance.

The Causal Argument:

Germany should deploy military advisors, special forces and fighter aircraft to provide support to GNA military operations in Libya, as well as supply economic and humanitarian aid to help establish the GNA as a legitimate government.  The GNA was the result of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) which the U.N. helped to broker on December 17, 2015.  The LPA calls for the establishment of a democratic Libyan national government, called the Government of National Accord (GNA), which would share powers among the multiple factions and tribes in Libya.  The perception of the GNA as legitimate by the local population is vital to the success of the democratic government.  Germany should use its military advisors to help the GNA in establishing a police force capable of enforcing laws and remove the presence of militia rule.  Next, the German government should supply economic and humanitarian aid to the GNA so it can fulfill the basic the needs of the local population of Tripoli.  In gaining the popular support of the local population through increased legitimacy of the GNA, the government could expect an overall decrease in militia conflict and violence in Western Libya.

After helping the GNA consolidate power in Tripoli, German military advisors could help the GNA create an army by incorporating various pro-GNA militias, like Libya Dawn and Libya Shield, into a single command structure.  Together, with the help of German Special Forces, the Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK), the GNA military can use fast, tactical strikes against IS and ALS camps in Western Libya.   The KSK has more than a decade of experience fighting terror groups in Afghanistan and Africa and could use their experience to help train GNA police and military units. Limited German military involvement, economic support, and humanitarian aid could help Middle-Eastern and African countries, like Libya, develop power-sharing democracies without the risk of overwhelming anti-U.S. sentiment preventing cooperation.

The GNA army, aided by German fighter aircraft and military advisors, could begin to recapture the oil fields, refineries, ports, and the city of Benghazi in Eastern Libya.  Oil production and trade is vital to the Libyan economy.  The oil fields, refineries, and ports are predominately controlled by the pro-GNA PFG and Benghazi Defense Brigade (BDB).  However, on March 14, 2017, the LNA re-captured the oil ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf from the PFG, after losing control in September 2016.  US officials claim that Russian special forces and drones were launched from Western Egypt to aid the LNA assault.  German presence in the region and support of the GNA could off-set Russian support of the LNA.  The GNA army, together with the BDB and the PFG, could retake the oil ports with close-air-support from the German Luftwaffe (Air Force).  After the GNA secures Eastern Libya and hostilities cease, the U.N. should initiate a peace-keeping mission and remain in Libya until national elections are followed by a peaceful transfer of power from one government to the next.


Germany should provide military advisors, special forces, and air-support, as well as offer economic and humanitarian aid to assist the GNA in Libya.  German intervention could help broker a resolution to the conflict in Libya by helping to establish the democratic GNA government.  GNA control of Libya could minimize the risk of IS and ALS attacking Germany and Europe, by controlling illegal mass migration across the Mediterranean. The success of the GNA in Libya could establish Germany as an alternative to direct U.S. involvement in the region and establish a democratic regime and US/EU/NATO partner in North Africa, limiting Russian influence in the region.





Drones: Tactical Success’, Strategic Failures

by Joshua Brumage, Towson University

Since 2004, more than 400 drone strikes have been carried out by the United States in Pakistan alone. These weapons have become a staple in the fight against terrorism. However, if the objective of the War on Terror is to “stop terrorist attacks against the United States, its citizens, its interests, and our friends and allies around the world,” then has the use of unmanned drone strikes helped achieve this objective? Considering the fact that number of global deaths cause by terrorism has been rising, the answer may be just the opposite. It is important that current tactics and strategies, such as the prolific use of drones, be analyzed to determine if they are indeed exacerbating the problem, instead of fixing it.

The use of drones has had a recognizable tactical effect. Before his death, Osama bin Laden wrote to his chief of staff, advising him that members of al Qaeda operating in the tribal regions of Pakistan (which have seen some of the heaviest amount of drone activity) should only move on overcast days to avoid being seen by satellites and drones, and that they should consider moving to the Kunar province in Afghanistan. Key Taliban and al Qaeda leaders have been eliminated by the strikes, such as Baitullah Mehsud, leader of a Pakistani militant group affiliated with the Taliban. Drone strikes are also unique in that they accomplish these tasks without endangering the lives of any United States personnel. As a result, the response among United States policymakers has been largely positive, leading to the program’s escalation.

Why then, are the numbers of terrorist attacks in the world rising? The answer lies in the relationship between tactics and strategy. In The Future of Strategy, Colin S. Gray writes that strategy serves as the “bridge” between tactics and politics. If tactics refers to actions taken on the battlefield, then strategy is using these actions to produce an effect, or consequence, that helps one achieve the political objective. In other words, successful tactics that do not produce a strategic effect are largely of little consequence. Worse still, tactical victories won without consideration for their possible effects on the political objective can actually have a negative strategic effect. A prime example is the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War, when North Vietnamese forces launched surprise attacks across South Vietnam. By all accounts, the Tet Offensive was a major tactical victory for the United States; the Viet Cong was decimated, with over 33,000 dead compared to approximately 3,470 dead for the United States and their allies. However, the offensive is considered a turning point in the Vietnam War, and not in favor of the United States. Although Hanoi did not achieve their objective of overthrowing the South Vietnamese government, the offensive had the strategic effect of showing the American public that the war was not going as well as the United States government had led them to believe. Public support waned, and eventually a weary and frustrated United States military withdrew from the country, which was then unified by North Vietnam.

So, what has been the strategic effect of the United States’ drone strikes? The aforementioned attack that killed Baitullah Mehsud also resulted in the deaths of four members of his family. Additionally, the strike was preceded by sixteen others that failed to kill Mehsud, and resulted in anywhere between 207 and 321 deaths. In all, the United States government released a statement in 2016 estimated that between 2009 and 2016, between 64 and 116 non-combatants had been killed in drone strikes. Estimates by third parties are less optimistic, ranging between 200 and over 800. In Pakistan, the reaction to these tactics has been understandably hostile. A 2011 poll among the Pakistani public showed that 89 percent think the strikes kill too many innocent bystanders, and anti-US demonstrations are common in the country.

The center of gravity of insurgent groups such as al Qaeda has been identified as their ideology; in order to effectively combat them, one must present an alternative ideology that the public finds preferable to that of the extremist’s. The increased use of drones in an attempt to deter terrorist activities has been unsuccessful because it fails to produce a preferable alternative. Every civilian killed by a drone strike stirs outrage among the civilian population. Insurgent leaders like Baitullah Mehsud are able to tap into these feelings and offer an opportunity to seek revenge against the instigators: the United States. For example, a Pakistani immigrant tried (unsuccessfully) to commit an act of terrorism in Times Square in 2010. During his trial, he cited American drone strikes as being the inspiration behind his plot. If the United States truly wishes to reduce or eliminate worldwide terrorism, it would behoove policymakers and strategists to examine their tactics, and adopt ones that more effectively help them achieve this objective.

The Language of War and Peace


The language and grammar of war shape conflict — and peace. The manner in which we speak of violence, the manner in which we speak of and to our enemies, often matters as much as the actual use of organized violence. The language and grammar of war can either expand or constrict opportunities for peace.

The final communication between the Soviet and American presidents occurred twenty-five years ago. It illustrates this point. On 25 December 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev called George H. W. Bush to inform him that he was dissolving the Soviet Union. Gorbachev wanted to reassure Bush that the Soviet nuclear arsenal was secure, that the US was safe. Gorbachev sought Bush’s reassurance that the US would help foster openness in Russia and a new more peaceful post-Cold War order. Gone was the rhetoric of communist revolution or American containment. Absent were threats of strike and counter-strike, of mutual annihilation. The language and grammar of war, had in a short few years, given way to expressions of cooperation, respect, and friendship. The war was over.

Historians and political scientist debate, and will continue to debate, the causal logic that brought the Cold War to an end. Was it the collapse of the Soviet economyWas it a resurgent American militaryWas it the anti-Communism of Pope John Paul II and the organizing efficacy of the Catholic church? Perhaps. An argument can be made for each of these and other potential causes.

However, there is more to be explained that simply the end of the Cold War. The nature of the end must also be explained. Why is it that the end was peaceful? What explains Soviet decisions to forge one final conflict in an attempt to rally? What explains American decisions to forgo the opportunity to instantly seize upon a weakened foe? The language and grammar of war provide insight.

Emile Simpson holds that the language of war provides an “interpretive structure” that gives meaning to the use of force — and to war itself. The language and grammar of a war identifies and gives meaning to the conflict and the political objectives motivating it. For a combatant nation-states, it provides an internal dialogue through which its citizens can justify the conflict and their sacrifices. It also provides an external dialogue, one aimed at the enemy (and other strategic audiences). This dialogue provides a narrative to identify and justify the political objectives and the use of violence on the part of one belligerent — while attempting to discredit the narrative put forth by their enemy. If the language is precise, thoughtful, and measured, it may also contain the terms for peace.

Simpson’s argument builds on the logic of Clausewitz. “We see, therefore, that war is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse carried on with other means.” This quote from Clausewitz, often shortened to “War is merely the continuation of politics by other means,” is so often cited that its mere presentation is trite. Often overlooked is the larger point, that war — like non-violent political discourse — is about persuading the other side to accept your preferred outcome.

This requires the communication of a political outcome the other side will find more acceptable than the continuation of the war. This may be done by convincing the enemy of the justness or legitimacy of one’s position. It may, more realistically perhaps, be done by convincing the enemy that the political objectives being sought are less onerous than the continued use of violence. In either case, success is predicated on the ability to communicate the nature and limits of the political objectives being sought. (If indeed such have limits. If not, then the war is one of complete conquest or genocide — and a negotiated peace is impossible.)

Over the course of the Cold War there were several attempts (evidenced by periods of détente, arms control agreements, and the Apollo-Soyuz mission) to adjust the language and grammar of the conflict. It was, however, a series of nearly catastrophic events that most likely caused American and Soviet leaders to reexamine and then adjust the language and grammar of the conflict.

In November 1979, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) detected an inbound pre-emptive Soviet nuclear strike. It was a false alarm, the product of a computer glitch. In September 1983, the Soviet Union’s Serpukhov-15 early warning bunker detected an inbound pre-emptive American nuclear strike. Like the NORAD case, it was a computer generated false alarm. In each case, the nation that ‘detected’ its enemy’s launch came perilously close to responding to a false alarm with actual nuclear weapons — an event that would have unwittingly triggered a global thermonuclear war. The US and Soviet Union came even closer in November 1983. That month changes to NATO’s annual Able Archer exercise inadvertently mimicked the precursor events Moscow expected to observe the US take before launching a full scale war. Later, when President Ronald Reagan learned that the Soviets earnestly believed the US was willing to launch a pre-emptive attack that would kill millions of Soviet citizens he was shocked. American and Soviet officials came to realize that the language and grammar of the Cold War was disproportionate to each nation’s actual political objectives. As they walked back the rhetoric, arms reduction became easier, tensions eased, and the likely use of organized violence against one another dissipated.

The cautionary lesson for today is that the opposite logic is also possible. Unchecked, vague, aspirational language can suggest the pursuit of boundless political objectives. This may communicate to potential adversaries an unwillingness to engage in non-violent political intercourse. Such narratives, even if meant for domestic consumption, may signal an exaggerated threat and increase the likelihood of conflict beyond the level of any actual political disagreement.