Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Will the UN Create A no-Fly zone over Libya?

I am a bit ambivalent to the idea of having a no-fly zone created over Libya–as I recall what the 14 years of no-fly zones over Iraq caused those people. What do you readers think. Here is the latest on the topic.–KAS

Fly-Over State

On Saturday, the Arab League asked the United Nations Security Council to authorize and impose a no-fly zone over Libya in an effort to prevent forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi from continuing to attack and kill innocent people. Following France’s lead, the League also formally recognized the rebel movement as the country’s legitimate government. The move “represents an extraordinary step by the leading Arab organization, historically reluctant to sanction a member,” and is “an extremely rare invitation for Western military forces on Arab territory.” At the same time, Abdul Hafidh Ghoga, the vice chairman of the rebels’ shadow government, urged the international community to intervene. “We feel we have the right to ask for help,” he said. “If the international community chooses to play the role of bystander, we will have to defend ourselves.” While France and Britain are actively seeking a Security Council resolution, the U.S. remains on the sidelines, urging the international community to form a consensus and obtain the necessary legal authorization to act. But Qaddafi’s forces are slowly making their way eastward and taking over rebel-controlled areas. Reuters reports, “By the time the outside world agrees on a response to [Qaddafi's] bloody onslaught against a popular revolt, it could all be over.”

THE U.S. POSITION?: While the Obama administration has been reluctant so far to fully endorse a no-fly zone, it has been very clear that any such action needs a broad international mandate. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who will meet with rebel leaders today in Paris — said recently that “it’s very important that this not be a US-led effort because this comes from the people of Libya themselves,” adding, “we are working really hard every day with the international community.” Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged caution on the no-fly zone, saying it would be a “big operation in a big country.” But he also said last week that “NATO will only act if there is demonstrable need, a sound legal basis, and strong regional support.” And in Bahrain on Saturday, Gates appeared to go a bit further. “If we are directed to impose a no-fly zone, we have the resources to do it,” Gates said. “The question is whether it’s a wise thing to do. And that’s the discussion that’s going on at a political level. But I just want to make clear we have the capacity to do it.”

WHAT TO DO?: Despite pleas for help from the Libyan rebels and the Arab League, some have questioned the utility of a no-fly zone in this particular situation because, as the New York Times notes, “planes alone have not defeated the rebels, but rather a relentless onslaught of tanks, artillery, helicopters and ships at sea” have driven anti-government forces back for the past several days. Former President Clinton recently offered his support for a no-fly zone, but retired Gen. Wes Clark, who commanded NATO’s air war under Clinton in 1999 to prevent Serbian ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, wrote this weekend that the U.S. and the West has “no clear basis for action,” arguing that national interests are few in Libya. “Protecting access to oil supplies has become a vital interest, but Libya doesn’t sell much oil to the United States,” said Clark. However, arguing in favor of a no-fly zone in the New York Times today, former State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter countered Clark . “Framing this issue in terms of oil is exactly what Arab populations and indeed much of the world expect, which is why they are so cynical about our professions of support for democracy and human rights.” Slaughter argues, “We have an opportunity to establish a new narrative of Western support for Arab democrats.” However, others like the International Crisis Group have pointed out that advocating for a ceasefire followed by negotiations is the correct course, saying that “Western calls for military intervention of one kind or another are perilous and potentially counter-productive” because “there are no quick or easy fixes.” In terms of cost, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments projects that a fully implemented no-fly zone could cost as much as $8.8 billion in 6 months, while more limited options would cost considerably less in the same time period.

ASK QUESTIONS LATER: Whatever debates are on-going within the Obama administration, or among allies in Brussels, Cairo, or New York, the American right wing appears to be taking the “shoot first and ask questions later” approach to the situation in Libya. Presumptive 2012 GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said last week that he wanted the U.S. to start bombing Libya “this evening.” “We don’t need to have NATO,” he said, “who frankly, won’t bring much to the fight. We don’t need to have the United Nations.” A few days later, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who is also said to be considering a 2012 presidential run for the GOP, went the same route, dismissing the need for an international coalition on Libya. “I’m not overly concerned about our popularity,” Pawlenty said. And yesterday on Fox News Sunday, neoconservative leader Bill Kristol said he wants an all out war with Libya , not just a no-fly zone. “I think at this point you probably have to do more than a no-fly zone,” he said, “You probably have to tell Qaddafi he has to stop his movement east and that we are going to use assets to stop him from slaughtering people as he moves east across the country. We might take out his ships in the Mediterranean. We might take out tanks and artillery.”



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