The Envoy

NATO on Libya, annotated: Welcome to Operation Protecting Disunity

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As the NATO allies pledged their unity and resolve to see the Libya mission through at a foreign ministers meeting in Berlin Thursday, one analyst deconstructed the diplomatic language and found reason to worry.

"The statement is a masterpiece of NATO speak and thus needs interpreting into plain English," writes Julien Lindley-French at the Atlantic Council's New Atlantacist blog, offering an annotated translation of the NATO ministers' joint statement:

...There is at least agreement that, "Gadaffi and his regime have lost all legitimacy" and the ministers correctly endorse the Doha meeting of the Contact Group which called on the long-time Libyan leader to depart the scene of the tragedy he has inflicted on his country. This must have been before the main course and after a swift gin and tonic. The statement also calls for an end to armed aggression by the regime, withdrawal of all Libyan forces to agreed bases and unfettered humanitarian access. So far, so good but note the lack of any political course of action ...

But then comes the killer word — "robust". Robust in NATO speak is like the British use of the word "interesting" in diplomatic speak. As you may know the British have several stages of alert ranging from "a tad concerned" when a crisis erupts , to "a bit niggled" when war is declared. However, nothing in the British dip lexicon compares with "interesting." Indeed, whenever the British respond to "language" with the word "interesting" it can be thus translated: "a load of complete tosh, you cannot be serious and how can you possibly think that." Robust in NATO speak is only deployed when disagreement is critical. Indeed by invoking Article Robust are invited to interpret any and all action as "robust," even if they are not actually doing anything. [...]

And thus to the crunch and the ultimate in NATO speak, "...we are committed to provide all the necessary resources and maximum operational flexibility". That means, we invite America, Britain and France to pay for all of this and do all the dangerous buts although at lunch we the rest of us might serve the wine — subject to parliamentary approval.

The NATO Secretary-General? ... We need St Francis of Assisi. Welcome to NATO Operation Protecting Disunity.

On a related note, the Guardian reports that the United Kingdom and France are at odds over whether a new UN Security Council resolution is needed to make the goal of the now month-old international military intervention in Libya regime change:

"Gérard Longuet, the French defence minister, agreed in an interview that removing the Libyan leader appeared to be beyond the scope of UN resolution 1973, which was passed to protect Libyan civilians," the paper writes. "Britain's Foreign Office insisted, however, that no new resolution was needed and that there were no plans for one. Russia and China would almost certainly veto anything that smacked of explicitly authorising regime change."

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