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US Endorses No-Fly Zone Over Libya

When the Arab League called for a UN no-fly zone over Libya over the weekend, the United States backed the action, officially endorsing the idea for the first time. This does raise the question of why the Arab League can’t intervene on its own if they feel the action justified in Libya, but presumably they supported an action which would have international sanction.

But the key questions remain unanswered, in particular: would a no-fly zone have any effect on Gadhafi’s roll back through the country? ABC Australia’s correspondent believes it may be too late. And Gadhafi has actually held back on major airstrikes in favor of tanks and artillery and helicopters.

The Libyan rebels believe a no-fly zone would help them:

“We have asked the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone,” Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, spokesman and deputy head of the Libyan opposition’s Benghazi-based Interim Transitional National Council, said at a news conference on March 8. “We expect them to do it. They can do it to stop the carnage.” […]

“There is a disproportion in the types of weapon each side uses,” said Fayez Younes, 60-year-old resident of the Benghazi neighborhood housing the Italian Consulate. While Qaddafi “uses tanks, armored vehicles, aircraft and artillery, the fighters have mortar shells and light weapons. But if they impose a no- fly zone over Libya, it won’t take long. It will only be one week until he’s gone,” he said.

Russia and China apparently aren’t sold on it, and want more information. They would have to not veto the measure at the Security Council.

The thing about the no-fly zone for me is that 1) the US would ultimately have to administer it, and 2) it’s never going to be enough. Bill Kristol wants a war with Libya, and those in his ideological orbit agree with him. This isn’t about leveling the playing field for the rebels, it’s about putting a thumb on the scale. Before we do that, we ought to discern on whose behalf we would be intervening, and what the implications would be for the rest of the region. I’m not sure we’ve done that yet.

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David Dayen

David Dayen