Tag Archives: France

Game Theory: Coalition, Libya, Gaddafi and the exit strategy

Great question Andrew – one that deserves answering.

Here’s my quick assessment. My guess is that the intention of the military action is to give Gaddafi alternatives to fighting. The goal of the no-fly zone and other military activities is designed to bring about a stalemate in the Libyan conflict. It’s goal is to provide the rebels with a clear safe haven which they can defend and sustain themselves. This fact, over time, would foster circumstances by which a negotiated agreement (or internationally mediated agreement) between the Libyan government and the rebels would be seen as necessary by both parties. This could, of course, come about with (or without) Gaddafi’s endorsement – but it would leave him some leverage if he chose to go down this path. Indeed, this political negotiated outcome is an explicit goal of the UN resolution. Moreover, the removal of Gaddafi is not called for. There is a wonderful analysis of the resolution on the BBC website, I’ve extracted the relevant parts below:


The stalemate outcome analysis also feels plausible given it is hard to imagine the Libyan rebels have either the equipment, training, resources and resolve to topple the Libyan government, with or without air support. Occupying vast swaths of the country may simply be sufficient for the rebels to achieve their goals – to force Gaddafi to accept he can no longer rule the country alone.

So in short, Gaddafi has as simple choice. He can fight and try to win outright (or gain enough leverage so as to create a negotiated outcome that would achieve the same outcome as winning). This has the benefit of huge upside if he wins (with disastrous outcomes from the west – expect some retaliatory terrorism) but it also has more dramatic downsides. If he loses, a complete loss of power, death and/or imprisonment all seem very likely. So this is a high stakes path.

Alternatively, he can choose to negotiate. This route has more ambiguity, something that presents a risk in of itself (a reason why the back channels will matter so much – see below). Here the upsides and downsides are slightly less extreme, although there is a possibility of an outright “win” for Gaddafi is not off the table completely.

Given these choices it wouldn’t be inconceivable for Gaddafi to choose to fight at first to test the resolve of the Allies and the rebels (something we are seeing now) and, should that not work (which it probably won’t, but could) he can always change gears and retreat into a stalemate negotiation and put forward offers that attempt to fracture the rebel coalition. If he can do that, he could still win back enough support to retake the country, find some way to influence the next government, or at worst, be forced to retire.

I’ve tried to sum all this up on a choice matrix below. The sum of it is, the top lefthand outcome seemed a certain outcome a few days ago. Now the allies are forcing the right column back into the picture. Have downsides down the left become significant enough? And the upsides or exit strategies for Gaddafi on the right certain enough to chance the calculus? That’s really the question – but I do think it remains a possibility.


There are, of course, at least two other parts of the puzzle that need to be in place to ensure that Gaddafi isn’t forced into fighting.

1. Someone would need to back channel to him the allies intentions: that the UN resolution is designed only to force a stalemate, not oust the current government. It might be logical for Gaddafi to then try to continue fighting and see if he can win despite the airstrikes (as this would maximize his leverage) and, he can always choose to back down later.

2. The western allies and the rebels would need to not interpret the retreat or adoption of a defensive posture by Gaddafi forces as signs of imminent collapse and try to press the advantage.

Obviously I do not know if condition number 1 is in place. In regards to condition number 2, this is also unclear, although I suspect the risks are relatively low. The UN resolution would appear to suggest this isn’t as possible but maybe the biggest unknown is France, which appears unusually keen for battle. The worst case scenario here is that Sarkozy sees the conflict as a way to establish is “presidentialness” in the lead up to an election and so seeks to exploit it, dragging the rebels, and the rest of the allies down a path that needn’t be trodden. But even here, the likelihood feels relatively low.

Of course, there are always thousands of other variables and I’m sure there are more than a few holes to poke in this analysis (I’m all ears for those who want to take a stab – would be great to hear more), but hope this is a helpful attempt to answer that important question. If the only choice you give someone is to fight, expect a fight. And it isn’t clear that we have the resources or stomach to fight back to the bitter end, so I hope someone in Paris or Washington DC has thought this through from this perspective.

Open Data: If British Conservatives get it right, the French…

This is a pretty stunning press release from Access Info Europe concerning the French government’s response to the open data movement. Statist government’s were always going to struggle with the internet and open data… but this shows just how bad things can get.

Press Release

For immediate publication

France proposes police controls on who uses public information

Madrid/Paris, 23 November 2010 – A law to be discussed in the French parliament before the end of 2010 will result in the police carrying out “behaviour” checks on members of the public and organisations wanting to reuse information obtained from public bodies. The likely effect is to severely limit access to information and freedom of expression.

The draft law currently before the French National Assembly amends the 1995 Police Security Act and will extend the scope of police “behaviour” checks from legitimate purposes such as checking on those to have access to dangerous substances and high security zones to those who want to reuse information obtained from public bodies. The criteria for the background checks are not specified in the law.

The information affected could include, for example, databases on public spending, copies of laws, or electoral results. Much data held by local authorities which is of great interest to the public such as schedules and real-time locations of trains and buses, information about recycling schemes, and construction works permits would also fall under these new controls.

The associations Access Info Europe and Regards Citoyens today expressed concerns that the law, if adopted, will significantly complicate and slow access to information in France.

“This is an extremely dangerous law which would seriously limit freedom of expression in France,” said Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe.

“Subjecting those who wish to access and reuse public datasets to vaguely-defined morality controls runs counter to the basic principles of the freedom of expression and information enshrined in the French Constitution, and is a violation of European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence and EU law,” added Darbishire.

Access Info Europe notes that in 2010 many leading democracies such as the US and the UK, Norway and Spain, Australia and New Zealand, are posting on line large volumes of public data making them free for anyone in the world to use. They do this out of recognition of the societal and economic benefits that flow from the reuse of public sector information.

“If this provision were to be adopted, France would be closing down public access to information rather than opening it up,” concluded Benjamin Ooghe-Tabanou, co-founder of Regards Citoyens.

Notes for Editors:

1. Access Info Europe is a human rights organisation head-quartered in Madrid which promote the right of access to information and open government data in Europe. Access Info Europe believes that more public information means better participation in and greater accountability of public bodies.

2. Regards Citoyens is a civic association which promotes the opening of public data to secure greater transparency of democratic institutions in France.

3. The proposed reform is to 1995 Security Law (Loi n°95-73 du 21 janvier 1995 d’orientation et de programmation relative à la sécurité).

4. The amendment would impact on the right of access to public information granted under the 1978 Access to Administrative Documents Law as modified by European Union Directive 2003/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 November 2003 on the re-use of public sector information. The EU Directive requires that governments to create “fair, proportionate and non-discriminatory conditions for the re-use of [public sector] information.” The European Commission is currently reviewing this Directive. This case and the broader impact of this Directive on the fundamental right of access to information should be carefully reviewed by the Commission.

5. The Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents from 2009, not yet signed by France, requires that all requesters be treated equally and without discrimination. It is illegitimate under this and other international standards to ask why someone wants information or what they will do with it.

6. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that access to information held by public bodies when these are monopolies is an inherent part of the right to freedom of expression: information is needed to participate in democratic public debate. See, inter alia Társaság a Szabadságjogokért v. Hungary (App no 37374/05), ECHR, 14 April 2009.

7. Examples of online portals for accessing public data include www.data.gov, www.data.gov.uk, www.data.gov.au, www.data.gov.nz.

For more information – in English or French – please contact:

Victoria Anderica, Access Info Europe, victoria@access-info.org

Office phone: +34 91 366 5344

Mobile: +34 606 592 976

Helen Darbishire, Access Info Europe (www.access-info.org)

helen@access-info.org, mobile: +34 667 685 319