Friday, March 11, 2011

Libya: Damned if you do and damned if you don't

There are many voices being raised in the U.S. that the U.S. should enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to reduce Gaddafi's advantage over the opposition.

One of these is Nicholas Kristof, "The Case for a No-Fly Zone Over Libya", New York Times, 2011-03-09.

On the other hand, they are those who give many arguments for the long-term consequences of  unilateral action, "Kicking the Intervention Habit", Richard Falk, Al-Jazeera, 2010-03-10.

Count me as one of the sympathizers of a no-fly zone, yet I really hesitate because of the long-term damage to U.S. prestige and influence.  What right does a country thousands of miles away have to determine military action that is not threatening its own shores?  What arrogance to think that the U.S. military is the only one capable of acting?

Wouldn't the European Union be a more appropriate actor than the U.S.?  Don't France, Germany, and the U.K. have sufficient capability to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya?  Even then, it will be interpreted by many in the Arab world as another example of colonialism.

If any no-fly zone were to be enforced, it would have to come from an Arab country.  Is it in the interest of the current governments of Tunisia and Egypt to do so?  They are the ones who had to deal with the thousands of refugees fleeing Libya.  Is not Egypt getting over $50 billion per year in military aid?  Is that going into paper airplanes?

I think the only course of action for the U.S. is to have very private talks with the Egyptians as to what the latter can and should do.

Maybe there is one other thing the U.S. can do.  If the embargo on Libya is rewritten to exempt the opposition government, then by all means ship arms, food, and other supplies into Benghazi and other safe ports.  If the U.S. could supply Stinger missiles to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan with disastrous effects on Soviet forces, could and should it supply them to the opposition in Libya, either directly or through a surrogate?