All great powers have had their military auxiliaries, myrmidons or sidekicks. Throughout history, nation has fought nation with the winner turning around and making the loser, assuming they fought well, a part of their military. No one did this as well as Great Britain. Sometimes British governments hired mercenaries, such as the Hessians of American Revolution fame. In most of its colonial wars, London organized armies in which native British troops were a minority. This strategy was particularly successful on the Indian subcontinent. As the British expanded their control over that portion of the world, they met, fought and then incorporated in their armies, a number of martial peoples, none more famous than the Gurkhas of Nepal. So close was the relationship that even after Indian independence, Britain created — and has maintained to this day — the Brigade of Gurkhas. Gurkha warriors have fought in all of Britain’s recent wars including the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The United States has its “Gurkhas.” Unlike Great Britain, America’s Gurkhas are not incorporated into this country’s military. But they are employed in a similar fashion. The closest U.S. military auxiliary, in fact, is Great Britain. NATO as an alliance has served in this role, first in the Balkans and now in Libya.
The Obama Administration is creating a phantasm by turning direction of the war in Libya over to NATO. Without U.S. leadership there would have been no U.N. resolution on Libya, no no-fly zone established and no NATO command and control of current operations. The very idea of NATO directing any operation without a central role for the United States military is ridiculous. The military head of NATO, the Supreme Allied Commander, is U.S. Admiral James Stavridis. It was U.S. cruise missiles and B-2 bombers that took out the Libyan air defenses. It is U.S. built and most often manned or controlled ISR and C2 systems such as the AWACS, Rivet Joint and Global Hawk that provide the means for directing air operations. U.S. strike aircraft such as the F-15 Strike Eagle, have conducted more than half the combat sorties to date. Like the British Raj, the Obama Administration is very much in charge of what goes on in its domain and in its name.
If the situation in Libya requires the deployment of boots on the ground, that job in all likelihood will fall to America’s Gurkhas. But that is okay. Great Britain fought numerous conflicts in Asia and Africa with armies made up largely of Gurkhas and similar peoples. More than a million Indian troops served the British Empire in each of the two World Wars. The British provided the weapons, transport, logistics, engineers and command and control for what were armies composed primarily of local forces. But the goals of these operations were always determined in London. America’s Gurkhas are well up to the task of bringing Gadaffi’s regime to heel, particularly when supported by advanced U.S. capabilities.
When he speaks to the Nation this evening, President Obama will have to explain why the United States and NATO felt it necessary to become involved in the internal politics of Libya, why our actions to date seem to have exceeded the mandate provided by the U.N. resolution and what vital U.S. national interests are being served. In his explanation to the American people, the President would do well to remember the story of British Major General Charles Napier, commander of the native Indian Army of Bombay. Ordered to undertake the limited mission of suppressing bandits operating in the Indian territory of Sindh, Napier exceeded his mandate, conquering the entire province. Reporting on his actions to his superiors, Napier sent the single word message, “Peccavi,” Latin for “I have sinned” and a pun (I have Sindh). For President Obama too, the best answer tonight may be to admit his sins and move on.
Find Archived Articles: