‘France’s Role in History’; 5 UPDATES from ORIGINAL

Allons, enfants de la Patrie!

Gotta love the French.  Nicolas Sarkozy kicked off the air strikes on Libya with a bang on Saturday:

Les peuples arabes ont choisi de se libérer de la servitude dans laquelle ils se sentaient depuis trop longtemps enfermés. L’avenir de ces peuples leur appartient, ils ont besoin de notre aide et de notre soutien, c’est notre devoir. Une population civile se trouve en danger de mort. Le combat qu’elle mène est la sienne. C’est au nom de la conscience universelle qui ne peut tolérer de tels crimes que nous intervenons…  La France est décidée à assumer son rôle devant l’Histoire.

This translates roughly as :

The Arab peoples have chosen to liberate themselves from the slavery in which they have long felt imprisoned. Their future is before them, they need our aid and support, this is our duty. A civilian population finds itself in deadly peril. The war that threatens them is waged by their own. It is in the name of universal conscience, which cannot tolerate such crimes, that we intervene… France has decided to assume her role before History.

The French newspaper Le Figaro has a site with regular updates on the events underway across the Mediterranean.  A few nuggets from today’s haul :

6 :55 PM (all times France).  French air forces destroyed several of Qaddafi’s armored vehicles outside Benghazi.

6 :28 PM. The fighter aircraft that was shot down [presumably from the now-viral video] was an aircraft being used by the opposition and was shot down in error. [Note : the Fox reporter says the fighter was shot down by AAA fire from the ground ; this would seem to indicate the insurgents are using AAA guns.  The French will want to ensure excellent coordination with them if that’s the case.]

6 :25 PM.  The African Union is putting together a negotiating team to meet with Qaddafi, and could be in Tripoli by Monday.

5 :48 PM.  France is using about 20 aircraft for the initial strikes. [Other sources identify them as Rafale strike-fighters from the French air force.]  The aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle will arrive on station off Libya on Sunday. [Note :  Charles de Gaulle typically carries 2-3 squadrons of strike-fighters, or 24-30.  USS Enterprise (CVN-65) has 4 squadrons of F/A-18s, 3 of the F-variant Superhornet and 1 of the C-variant Hornet.  The normal complement of strike-fighters for a US carrier is 48-50 total.]

5 :40 PM.  Libyan state television stated that hundreds of Libyan civilians were gathered at Qaddafi’s headquarters in Tripoli in advance of the enemy air strikes. State television said the crowds were assembled around the targets that had been designated by France for air strikes. [Note : obviously a warning that the civilians were to function as human shields.  Qaddafi was assuming his command facilities were to be targeted, but there is no evidence so far that they have been.  The reported strikes have been around Benghazi.]

5 :28 PM.  Besides the air activity, which would commence soon, a naval blockade has been imposed against Libya, according to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

5 :17 PM. Five French aircraft – an AWACS (airborne warning and control aircraft), and 2 Rafale and 2 Mirage fighters – were operating over Libyan territory. [Note : this was the first indication of French fighters being over Libya.]

4 :22 PM. Italian reconnaissance aircraft were operating over Libya. Italy reiterated that her contribution would be primarily offering airfields to support fighter operations.  [Note :  Italy is not expected to join the air strikes.] Six Danish F-16s had arrived at Sigonella, a major US-NATO air base in Sicily. American aircraft were reportedly to arrive there sometime later on Saturday.

« Notre determination est totale, » said Sarkozy.  Our determination is total.


8:36 PM.  First explosions seen near Tripoli by eyewitnesses interviewed by AFP [French press agency].  [Note: these probably correlate to the US Tomahawk missile strikes announced at about 3:35 PM EDT in the US media.  This would represent the first attacks outside of the Tripoli area and presumably indicate attacks on Libyan national air defense assets.]


9:05 PM. David Cameron has announced that British forces have entered combat in Libya.  [This may mean a British submarine or destroyer launched some of the Tomahawks.  The French air commander would presumably know if British fighters were operating in Libyan airspace.]

9:06 PM. Libyan television announced that “civilian targets” were hit by enemy bombs.


From the Pentagon brief (by Admiral Bill Gortney):  The Libyan operation will be called “Odyssey Dawn” and will be commanded by the Commander, US Africa Command, Army General Carter F. Ham.  [The Africa Command HQ is in Stuttgart, Germany; it is not clear whether a contingent will deploy forward for this operation (perhaps to Italy?).]  The Naval component of Africa Command, Commander US Sixth Fleet  Naval Forces Africa/Europe (Vice Admiral Sam Locklear), is coordinating the naval operations from the USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20), one of the Navy’s two remaining fleet command ships, which is permanently assigned to the Mediterranean (homeported in Gaeta, Italy).

112 Tomahawks were launched at about 25 air defense targets on 19 March.

[Note:  It’s good to finally see something from US authorities on all this, but we really seem to be backing into the whole thing.  Gee, we’re in command – who knew??  The incredible thing is that the media are letting the Obama administration get away with this disorganized pick-up game.  Where was Bob Gates?  Where was Admiral Mullen?  Why haven’t we heard from General Ham?  We’re in command of this operation, and the press is satisfied to hear a few details about a Tomahawk salvo, when the French are bombing Benghazi, there’s a naval blockade offshore, and a dozen other nations are supposedly sending assets?]


10:12 PM.  Libyan television claims an enemy aircraft was shot down by Qaddafi’s air defense forces near Tripoli.

10:21 PM.  France’s general staff assures reporters that all of the French combat aircraft had departed Libyan airspace before the “shoot-down” claimed by Libyan state TV. [Note:  France is calling its national operation – a contributing effort in Odyssey Dawn – “Harmattan.”  Figaro quotes the top military authorities as summarizing today’s activities by the French air force and implying that there will be no additional operations before the 20th.]


As of about 9:30 PM EDT.  The French combat aircraft returned to base for the day several hours ago. British Tornado strike-fighters just launched Storm Shadow air-to-surface missiles at targets in Libya within the last half hour.  The Pentagon has upped the number of Tomahawk missile strikes from 112 to 114, and Fox’s reporter in Tripoli spoke within the last couple of hours of hearing explosions that were assessed to be cruise missile strikes.  Those were probably the latest Tomahawk hits.

The actual “no-fly zone” has not been established at this point, given that there is no evidence of a continuous-enforcement regime (e.g., combat air patrol with fighters on-call for immediate reaction).  The coalition attacks up to now have been to neutralize Qaddafi’s air defenses and hinder his operations against Benghazi.  That said, it should be clear to Qaddafi that if he uses his own attack aircraft when there’s no one around to shoot them down, there will be retribution.

Qaddafi may fix his hopes on the intervention of the African Union delegation (see above), which is to arrive on Monday.

Note: A reader at Hot Air points out that Admiral Locklear is a 4-star and is Commander Naval Forces Europe/Africa, not COMSIXTHFLT.  Correction made above.  (Full disclosure:  ADM Locklear was my boss in the USS Nimitz battle group from 2002 to 2004, so I should definitely not have misfired on that one…)

J.E. Dyer blogs at Hot Air’s Green Room and Commentary’s “contentions.”  She writes a weekly column for Patheos.

19 thoughts on “‘France’s Role in History’; 5 UPDATES from ORIGINAL”

  1. Thanks the French for stepping up and showing there are still adults in the room

  2. Pingback: Charles De Gaulle
  3. it’s finally good to see that facts of US behavior are flying in the face of your illusions.

  4. Any rumors that Obama might eventually request an authorization of force resolution from Congress? Or are we just going to “blame it on Rio”?

    1. for military operations authorized by a UN Security Council resolution?

      I think, DAN, that Congress can be said to have authorized it they could constructively revoke authorization by refusing to grand funding for it.

  5. Two responses, Fuster:

    The UN doesn’t authorize the President to engage in warfare, Congress does. Or at least that was what our Constitution said before Obama took over.

    Second, it is certainly true that Congress can limit a President’s unauthorized exercise of power by refusing to fund it further. But that begs the question of whether the President should act unlawfully or whether he should comply with the Constitution by asking Congress for a resolution allowing him to wage war (or whatever euphemism he’s currently using — perhaps “combatting man-made badness.” Even the dreaded Bush asked for, and obtained, resolutions, for both Iraq and Afghanistan. Remember “Bush lied” refers to his request for the authorization. The boy wonder doesn’t even bother to consult with anyone in Congress, much less ask for a resolution, before he announces that he’s having us join the Blue Berets while he and the family trot off to South America. But then again, when he recites the Pledge of Allegiance, he says: I pledge allegiance to the United Nations and to all the nonsense for which it stands . . . .

      1. It is a rather odd way to back into what amounts to a war, as will no doubt become apparent if Khadaffi doesn’t go quickly and quietly into that dark night.

      2. Korea was a case of one nation N.Korea, invading another nation, S. Korea. A clear violation of International law.

        Serbia was engaged in genocide and quickly devolved into a civil war between ‘tribal’ factions. The UN intervention in both Korea and Serbia were well within the UN charter, the current action against Libya is entirely outside the UN charter.

        Obama has 90 days in which to request Congressional approval. Legally, he’s done nothing wrong. Constitutionally, by voting for the UN action he’s validating a new policy and precedent of US sovereignty being hostage to world opinion.

        1. Geoffrey ——“…by voting for the UN action he’s validating a new policy and precedent of US sovereignty being hostage to world opinion.”

          you couldn’t possibly make a case for that statement. not for either the “new policy and precedent” part or the “hostage” part.

          you want to say it’s a dumb idea and you don’t like what he’s doing, swell, but let’s not throw the bathtub out with the bathwater.

  6. 1. How much are 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles costing me?

    2. How many cents is this going to put on the price of a gallon of gas?

    3. What do we do when the air-strikes and the NFZ fail to remove Ghaddafi from power?

    4. How long do we maintain the NFZ (and the military assets to enforce it) when the situation on the ground is in indefinite stalemate?

    5. What do we do when freedom fighters/protesters find themselves brutally suppressed by dictators we are rather fond of?

    6. What is the likely long-term effect on opinion on the Arab “street” when the situation settles down to a stalemate with Ghaddafi hanging-on and the skies of yet another Arab country being patrolled by US warplanes?

    7. What is the likely effect etc……. when our cruise missiles and airstrikes inevitably miss their targets and hit schools and hospitals?

    8. Other than opening another front in the neo-con war against the Moslem world, what is this action going to achieve?

    9. What possible US interest is served by an indefinite military offensive against the Moslem world?

    10. If humanitarian concern for the welfare of the Libyan people is our motivation – Why do we sell/give cluster-bombs, phosphorous bombs, and anti-personal mines to despots and “allies” worldwide. What humanitarian purpose are these meant to serve?

    11. Why is Rand Paul the only US politician I am aware of who has come out unequivocally against this action?

    12. Why have we allowed the idiocy of military intervention to become our foreign-policy of first choice when dealing with the Arab world?

    Questions, questions………….

    1. You can at least be confident its costing you less than the Sevruga swallowed by the KG daily by Obama and his union buds daily.

    1. A commenter to that article put it well, “a few common sense points with copious amounts of pure fantasy. With the matter of fact tone he employs and the random bits of information he throws out there it is easy to come to think he knows just about all there is to know about the various obscure conflicts he mentions in his pieces.

      But if his knowledge of the Balkans is an indication of the rest of it, this is not so much real knowledge as it is a mix of the absolute crudest form of stereotyping, misheard tidbits of information and literary inventions thrown in for their effect.

      Brecher puts creating literature above writing punditry. He is best read that way too.”

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