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Germany Scotches EU Support for Libya No-Fly Zone

Moammar Gadhafi’s forces continue to pound rebels from the ground and the sky in all parts of Libya, and while the rebels still “have the will to fight,” in the words of one lieutenant colonel who defected, they are largely outgunned. They sent up two old planes to try and bomb Gadhafi’s warships, but I’m not sure this will meaningfully impact the outcome. Gadhafi has basically consolidated the west and is moving on the east, telling Il Giornale that “There are only two possibilities: Surrender or run away.”

But if some believe this turn of events would increase efforts at coalition-building on a no-fly zone, Germany put that to bed yesterday.

Germany has again blocked Anglo-French plans for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya.

Reports from talks held by G8 ministers in Paris said German objections, backed by Russia, meant the communique from the meeting would make no mention of a no-fly zone.

Speaking during the meeting, Germany’s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said his country remained “very sceptical” about the prospect of a no-fly zone.

He recommended instead more “political pressure” against the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi. He said Germany did not want “to get sucked into a war in north Africa”.

Indeed, the communique only hinted at “dire consequences” if Gadhafi did not allow for greater government participation from his subjects. Any action on a no-fly zone now moves to the UN Security Council, but without EU buy-in, it doesn’t look likely. Anyway, a no-fly zone seems like a solution to last week’s problem: short of a full-scale invasion accompanying it, I’m not sure what it would accomplish.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) said a declaration of war would be required for the US to impose a no-fly zone.

One of the GOP’s leading voices on foreign policy on Monday warned against the implementation of a no-fly zone over Libya, and said the Obama administration must first seek a congressional declaration of war.

Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also said in a statement that the Arab League, which unanimously called for a no-fly zone, should pay for such an operation […]

“Given the costs of a no-fly zone, the risks that our involvement would escalate, the uncertain reception in the Arab street of any American intervention in an Arab country, the potential for civilian deaths, the unpredictability of the endgame, the strains on our military, and other factors, it is doubtful that U.S. interests would be served by imposing a no-fly zone over Libya,” Lugar said.

He also pointed to other anti-government movements in the Middle East, cautioning that the situation in Libya “may not be the last to generate calls for American military operations.”

These are the points that those calling for an intervention don’t want to discuss. What would this action accomplish, where does it end, how does it affect the rest of the region? The calls from the interventionists will escalate in the event of a siege on Benghazi, the rebel stronghold. They should be made to answer these questions.

Meanwhile, the US does have some influence over events in the region, if not with Libya. They could deny aid and resources to any country which uses the weapons of the state against their own people – for example, in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia. But that’s about the opposite of what’s being discussed.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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