Wednesday, March 2, 2011

U.S. No-Fly Zone A No-Go?

I must start this post by emphatically stating my utter disgust for the Libyan Regime of Moammar Gaddafi. While I was up watching some TV early this morning, I witnessed the bombing of an oil rich Libyan city of Brega by the Libyan Air Force. Brega has now become a key strategic point in this country's civil war, as control of the city means control to the natural gas that powers the Eastern part of the country, the stronghold of the rebels. CNN has reported that Gaddafi seems to be strengthening his hold on the capitol of Tripoli, proving to be recalcitrant in the face of growing international pressure. The situation is developing at a rapid pace, once again catching the Obama Administration (Where is Obama these days anyway? It seems like that he is shrinking in the presidency, something that happened to Jimmy Carter) flat-footed and putting them into a precarious international situation. As internal conflicts amongst administration officials are seeming to form (Secretary of Defense Robert Gates seemingly be against U.S. military action and implementation of a No-Fly Zone, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seems more open to the idea), the U.S faces a vital question? Should the U.S intervene in this Libyan Civil War on the basis of humanitarian grounds?

The idea of a dictator violently cracking down on his own people, with the death toll reportedly over 2,000, awakens my deepest sympathies for the Libyan people. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a humanitarian crisis. I do not however believe in the calls from various U.S Senators like Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to implement a unilateral U.S. No-Fly Zone. There are so many problems with that proposed solution. The primary oncern being further stoking of anti-American sentiment in the region. In order to implement the No-Fly Zone, an extensive bombing campaign would have to take place targeting Libya's anti-aircraft missile and radar defenses, so that they could not be used against our men and women as we clear all Libyan air power out of the skies. The image of U.S. planes bombing Libyan strategic targets would play into the hands of many anti-American coalitions in the region. Unilateral military action by the U.S would almost surely taint the legitimacy of the movement, while arming Gaddafi with propaganda and leverage in the international community (with a friendly audience with China and Russia).

There has also been talk of arming the rebels that have taken control of the Eastern part of the country. This way you would circumvent the geo-political fallout of direct U.S. military intervention into a sovereign nation. Unfortunately the U.S has a very mixed results when it comes to the arming of political factions in opposition of a government ( The Bay of Pigs for example), and other than a supposed newly formed Provisional Government, there seems to be no consensus in western foreign policy circles on who is in charge. Therefore, there is no one to give the weapons too. Finally, we do not want these arms to fall into the wrong hands. The U.S. must be very careful in these considerations.

Based on my limited foreign policy experience and most mainstream opinions, the best option seems to be using a NATO multinational coalition to enforce a No-Fly Zone and collectively develop a policy towards the unrest (while providing humanitarian aid), only at the request of a united front of opposition (to insure U.S. political protection and insulate us from the accusation of a neoconservative foreign policy). Ideally, we want any kind of multinational coalition to include players in the region. The sweeping unrest across the region, however, has sidelined many potential partners like Egypt and Tunisia. The U.N., once again showcasing it's weakness as a body (don't get me started), is a non-starter due to the fact that Russia and China would veto any resolution committing U.N. coalition forces. Russia and China are not particularly favorable to the idea of setting a precedent of international support for a No-Fly Zone every time there is a conflict that can be construed as having humanitarian concerns, especially when the conflict involves them.

Overall, I think it is a waiting game that we will have to play. Unfortunately, the longer we wait, the longer we sit on the sidelines, the more Libyan opposition members are massacred by their own leader, a fellow Libyan. And that as a fellow human being, makes me sick.

1 comment:

  1. Take a look at a map of Libya and then look at the maximum ranges of our fighters and then look at where they would have to launch from. A no-fly zone over Tripoli might be doable, but covering all of Libya would be hopeless. The place is just too big.

    Once you'd come up with the solution to the no-fly zone, you'd still have to deal with the real slayers of innocent women and children - African mercenaries. 16 year olds from the Congo with AK-47s and pickup trucks can only be stopped with mobile infantry units and then only after a lot of bloodshed.

    See also: Somalia.