Josh Rogin put together a useful table listing the governments making military contributions to the Libyan war and comparing the current war with past military actions from Desert Storm through the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As Rogin explains, the Libyan coalition is the smallest of them all. In fact, Rogin’s table somewhat overstates the support that the coalition has, because Turkey’s military contribution is strictly limited to naval support in enforcing the arms embargo. The Turkish government has stated repeatedly that it will not participate in enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya. Turkey’s participation is taking place partly under protest from Ankara and partly as a way of keeping the intervention from escalating.
As Sarkozy has started complaining that the token NATO hand-off threatens to undermine the value of token Arab support, it’s worth saying a few things about the nature of the coalition that is attacking Libya. The almost total lack of support from the countries that were once praised as “New Europe” is a useful reminder that the support for invading Iraq that came from these countries was an expression of gratitude/sucking-up for recent or prospective NATO expansion and a desire to prove that they were useful allies. It was also the result of Washington’s pressure to use that support to create the impression that there was broad, international backing for its policy. When Washington is not cajoling and bribing its weaker central and eastern European allies into backing a bad policy, they are no more inclined to plunge into unnecessary conflicts than anyone else.
There is no appetite in most of Europe for another “out of area” war, and once again we see just how meaningless the “New Europe” conceit really is. The lack of military contributions from almost all new post-1996 NATO members is also a reminder that NATO expansion has added almost no value to the Alliance’s military strength. While NATO control of the Libya operation required the consent of all member states, there is much less support for military action against Libya within NATO than there has been for Kosovo or Iraq.