There has been occasion hereabouts to make reference to conspiracy theories quite recently, (I shall return to the silver markets another time).
And when we see deployment against Libya of armed forces from not only Italy, France and the USA Med Fleet - all fairly proximate - but the UK, Spain, Canada, and Denmark*, within hours of a widely unexpected and essentially unheralded UN vote ... you may be sure the plans were in hand for quite a while before that.
I have commented elsewhere that NATO is in fact quite good at this planning & deployment stuff, particularly of air forces; and France never left the command structure even when she absented herself from actual NATO formations for many years. But even so. What's going on ?
It isn't difficult to 'follow the money', and notice the sheer quantities of oil & gas involved. France has always conducted itself vis-à-vis Algeria so that national champion Total has been able to conduct uninterrupted operations in that country before, during and after the 1960's war. Likewise, it is a pressing feature of Spanish, French and Italian policy to exert as much control as they can to stem the tide of African immigration. Neither of these factors is new, so evidence of pre-planning is not to be marveled at.
But even so. We read a lot about how aggressive China is in its quest for control over raw materials; and how Russia has been gradually reasserting hegemony over the natural resources of the FSU. But these could be painted as rank amateurs when it comes to the decisive colonial instinct: China can barely restrain North Korea, and Russia's 2008 adventure in Georgia amounted to a demonstration of its ineffectiveness.
On the subject of Russia, early reports indicated that they had "stepped up gas supplies to Italy to 2.5 times normal levels after Italy's supplies from Libya were cut off". This may be genuine assistance to the Italian cause, but it may be no more than the Italians nominating winter-maximum supply levels during relatively mild weather, which (in March) they are contractually entitled to do at their own discretion. Nonetheless, if Moscow had given the nod for curtailment, Gazprom would have complied. It is thinking like that which leaves Germany on the sidelines: they pride themselves on being very strategic in their energy policy, but it all boils down to a lame single strand: grovel to Russia and, errr, grovel to Russia. (Oh, and keep those lignite mines open, just in case.)
So - it's not difficult to paint this operation as part of a considered plan, at very least to defend certain lines-in-the-sand as regards stability of access to oil & gas, plus damping-down of reasons for refugees to hit the boats. When push comes to shove, somehow wind-farms don't quite cut the mustard as the future of European energy supply. Actions (or non-actions) in Egypt, Bahrain etc can be seen in the same light: ditto the fact that Qatar - small in numbers, huge in gas supplies - is onside. Oh, and did we mention that little Qatar is perilously positioned as regards Iran ...
To conclude: we can follow this camel-train of thought all the way to the most lurid conspiracy-theories: see this, this & this. But at an absolute minimum we are seeing a measure of self-interested post-colonial steel that many assumed the Old Continent had completely lost. The traditional Capitalism-at-Work-by-other-means, if you like. Russia and China mere bystanders - for the time being, at least.
So: watch Turkey, watch Iran, watch gas prices. This could be a very serious indicator of the shape of politics to come.
*PS - Denmark is interesting. They were deeply worried by German reunification, and vowed to demonstrate that their soldiers no longer wore hair-nets, so to speak - e.g. deploying tanks (which actually opened fire) to Yugoslavia to make the point. I'd guess today's air deployment is more of the same.