Even as Europe is drawing up contingency plans to send 1,000 peacekeeping troops to Libya, France and Britain are already sending about 20 military advisers. The military experts are charged with helping the ragtag forces fighting against Moammar Gadhafi "improve their military organizational structures, communications, and logistics," according to Britain. They will not be involved in any actual fighting. Still, as former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell points out, "Vietnam began with an American president sending military advisers." Is this a sure sign of mission creep?
Let's not turn Libya into Vietnam: Britain swears these "advisers" won't arm, train, or direct the anti-Gadhafi forces, says Simon Tisdall in The Guardian. "The world-weary response must be: Just give them time." Britain, France, and the U.S. have already committed to Gadhafi's ouster, and the rebels can't do it alone. But as America proved with Vietnam, mission creep "usually ends in disaster." It may be too late to reverse course, though: "The creep is on."
"The Libyan mission is creeping, no doubt"
But the rebels badly need military advice: The rebel army is "still far from a competent one," says Benjamin Hall in Esquire, and many fighters apparently believe "too much planning or premeditation will somehow taint an otherwise 'pure' revolution." But they're also showing "continuing competence," and have managed to hold their own against Gadhafi's well-trained loyalists. If we can help "the rebels get their act together," they "just might win."
"Libyan rebels go back to basics — and might just win"
This will escalate fighting in Brussels, if not Libya: "Officials in London and Paris are eager to play down the importance of this deployment," but it's tearing Europe in two, says Ishaan Tharoor in TIME. "It may not be long before the current team of 'advisers' sent to Benghazi is coordinating the distribution of foreign arms and military equipment," or they could be, as advertised, a humanitarian support force. Either way, bank on "months of diplomatic handwringing and finger-pointing."
"U.K. and France try to boost Libyan rebels, but risk rupturing NATO"