Former NATO head: We’re not doing the job in Libya

The NATO campaign in Libya is "not going as well as it should," says George Robertson, the former U.K. defense secretary who served as NATO's secretary general from 1999 until 2003. European countries lack the military capacity to bring the operation to a close and NATO has failed to mount an effective psychological campaign against members of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi's regime -- to convince them their days are truly numbered.

All that means "it's taking longer to achieve than it should," he told Foreign Policy, ahead of a speech he will give tonight on the topic at Chatham House in London, where he is an outgoing president.

The NATO bombing campaign, now in its fourth month, has gone on longer than many leaders thought it would. Qaddafi is still in power. Government and rebel forces have fought each other to a standstill.

Yet, NATO officials insist the campaign is going well. "The noose is tightening around [Qaddafi], and there's very few places for him to go," Gen. Charles Bouchard, the Canadian head of the operations, told the Washington Post in late June.

Robertson notes that members of the alliance are committed to achieving their goals in Libya, but "don't express it regularly enough" and that populations are preoccupied with the more immediate concerns of the economic crisis, unemployment, and deficit reduction plans.

"I think the European allies -- especially those that are doing nothing at the moment -- need to do more," says Robertson. "And in the longer term, the European countries have got to achieve the capabilities that will allow them to do things in their own backyard without necessarily depending on the Americans."

Robertson echoes outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who said on his farewell tour of Europe last month that not all countries were sharing the costs of the Libya operation.

"While every alliance member voted for the Libya mission, less than half have participated at all, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission," Gates said. "We have the spectacle of an air operations center designed to handle more than 300 sorties a day struggling to launch about 150."

Robertson tells FP:

I think Mr. Gates makes a fair point when he says this mighty alliance after only a few weeks against a pretty impoverished country finds itself out of ammunition. We don't have the right planes with precision bombing. We don't have enough deployable troops.  We don't have the assets at sea that would allow the bombing campaign to take place. But we've pretended up to now that because the Europeans spend $300 billion a year in defense, that we must be well armed. We are. But it's the wrong stuff. It's for the Cold War not the next war.

Robertson says Libya has become a true turning point for the decades-old alliance. In a nutshell, the old contract between the Europeans and the United States -- that the U.S. would supply the hardware as long as Europeans provided political cover to the operations -- has ended.

"In Libya, the Americans did what I always suggested they might do -- which is to say, ‘It's your fight, please take the lead. You're big enough, you're brave enough, you're strong enough. You do it,'" says Robertson. "I think that's changed things forever. This is the wake up call. People have to realize they are not ready for the next problem that comes up."

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Reagan love-fest in Europe

There's been a lot of love for the 40th president of the United States these past few days in Europe. In a tour organized by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation to commemorate the centennial of his birth, the man who said, "Tear down this wall," now has two more statues raised in his memory, a street named for him, and a Catholic Mass in his honor.

A mass in Krakow

Monday of last week, June 27, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow and former personal assistant to Pope John Paul II, celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving in Reagan's honor at the Basilica of St. Mary.

"The blessed John Paul II and Ronald Reagan were, and continue to be, the beacon of hope for a world fighting against evil, irrespective of whether it is individual or structural evil, which takes on various monstrous forms," Father Jan Machniak of the Papal University in Krakow told the Polish Press Agency.

Time magazine once called the relationship between the pope and the 40th president a "holy alliance."

The two conspired back in the early 1980s to hasten the end of the Soviet Union by backing Polish solidarity. "Both the Pope and the President were convinced that Poland could be broken out of the Soviet orbit if the Vatican and the U.S. committed their resources to destabilizing the Polish government and keeping the outlawed Solidarity movement alive after the declaration of martial law in 1981," Time magazine wrote in 1992.

Reagan's national security advisor, Richard Allen, called it "one of the great secret alliances of all time."

According to a Polish news web site, there are plans to erect a Reagan statue in Warsaw.

A statue in Budapest

Budapest last week unveiled its own bronze 7-foot likeness of the American president. It was commemorated at Freedom Square at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Viktor Orban and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Orban said Reagan "changed the world and created a new world for Central Europe. He tore down the walls which were erected in the path of freedom in the name of distorted and sick ideologies."

The statue, which shows Reagan in mid-stride, also has a touchscreen monitor that gives information about the president in Hungarian and English.

Hungary has been going Reagan crazy of late. In March, its postal service issued a "commemorative envelope and postmark celebrating" Reagan's birth 100 years ago, according to the Associated Press.

A street in Prague

Reagan is the fourth U.S. president to have a street named after him in Prague -- joining George Washington, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

According to Hungary's deputy foreign minister, Zsolt Nemeth, Reagan belongs in that pantheon because he inspired the opposition movement there, which in 1989 peacefully overthrew the Soviets.

"This opposition was fueled by the fact that in the West, there was truth, political leaders who don't compromise and turn upside-down what was true," he told USA Today. "Reagan was that type of politician."

Ronald Reagan Street, near the U.S. ambassador's residence, replaces a road named after the 19th-century Czech writer and historian Zikmund Winter.

A statue in London

The London statue -- unveiled on July 4 outside the U.S. Embassy -- topped Budapest's by 3 feet. Standing 10 feet tall, the bronze statue by sculptor Chas Fagan bears words by Reagan's staunchest anti-communist ally -- Margaret Thatcher, Britain's prime minister during his time in office. "Ronald Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot," it reads.

The statue cost $1 million and was funded by private donors. The local city council made an exception in allowing the memorial -- it usually requires a person to be dead for 10 years before permitting statues.

But there's one problem with the location of the memorial. The U.S. Embassy is planning to move to a different spot in 2017. And it is not taking him with it.

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