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Daily View: Should a no-fly zone be implemented in Libya?

Clare Spencer | 10:20 UK time, Thursday, 10 March 2011

Super Hornet


Commentators discuss whether or not it is a good idea for other countries to intervene in Libya and bring in a no-fly zone.

Senior lecturer in Middle East politics at the University of Exeter Larbi Sadiki wonders on Al Jazeera why it's taken this long for western governments to start criticising Libya's regime:

"But the Gaddafi regime should have fallen at the turn of the new millennium, around the same time when Baghdad was sacked by the US-led 'coalition of the willing'.
"However, Western political establishments chose to subdue Gaddafi's Libya and conquer it economically, thus giving Gaddafi's failed state a longer lease on life. There is no surprise here: economic gain often prevails over moral principles in the international relations of the Middle East. "Western academics were complicit in all of this, giving the 'butcher of Tripoli' an undeserved respite."

Columnist Nicholas Kristof says in the New York Times that the former US Air Force chief of staff backs up his case for a no-fly zone:

"I called General McPeak to get his take on a no-fly zone, and he was deliciously blunt:
"'I can't imagine an easier military problem,' he said. 'If we can't impose a no-fly zone over a not even third-rate military power like Libya, then we ought to take a hell of a lot of our military budget and spend it on something usable.'"

Academics at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment, James Thomas and Zachary Cooper agree in the Wall Street Journal that a no fly zone should be easy to implement:

"The U.S. and its allies successfully implemented no-fly zones against Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein in the 1990s, so why not against Moammar Gadhafi's remaining security forces in Libya today? U.S. military and defense officials have offered various arguments against a Libyan no-fly zone--but their reasoning doesn't necessarily apply to this case...
"While a host of political and strategic considerations could lead U.S. and NATO leaders not to impose a no-fly zone, there is no insurmountable operational hurdle. The U.S. and its allies will likely face future dilemmas about whether to intervene in a country to prevent mass atrocities. In the near term, continued advances in extended-range precision-guided weaponry will offer various options for projecting power.
"In the longer-term, as guided weapons proliferate more widely, other countries may use them to constrain U.S. power-projection and deny it regional access. But for the time being at least, the U.S. continues to have the advantage, should U.S. leaders choose to exploit it."

Former commander of UN forces in Bosnia Bob Stewart says in the Times that a no-fly zone over Bosnia was ineffective and isn't an easy option in Libya either:

"To my mind an effective no-fly zone has to satisfy several clear conditions. It should be established by the highest international authority, which means a UN Security Council resolution. But Security Council decision-making often occurs at the speed of a striking slug and coalition building is slow.
"If the US is prepared to lead - and the Obama Administration does not seem keen - any action will most certainly require others, not just the UK and France, to make a firm commitment as well. Other European nations must step up to the plate too."

In the Telegraph Con Coughlin mocks the "liberal do-gooders" who want to establish a no-fly zone to protect anti-government protesters:

"What I find particularly amusing about this debate is that many of those now calling for a no-fly zone in Libya were the same people who bitterly opposed the invasion of Iraq to rid the world of another brutal dictator - Saddam Hussein - who had brutalised his people for decades. But what, pray, is the difference between invading Iraq with ground forces and invading Libya's air space with warplanes?"

The Daily Mail editorial is against a no-fly zone on the grounds that it could lead to another war:

"While compassion may ultimately demand action, a word of caution before the Coalition further cranks up its threat to impose a no-fly zone over Libya: this is how nations get sucked into wars."
"It may sound like a straightforward humanitarian measure to prevent Colonel Gaddafi from annihilating his ill-equipped opponents from the air."
"In fact, it would mean the destruction of Libya's air defences - itself an act of war, of questionable legality. And even if most of the burden was carried by the Americans -who are distinctly chillier than the UK about a no-fly zone - could our desperately overstretched forces really afford to take on yet another indefinite commitment?"

Former diplomat Carne Ross argues in the Financial Times that a no-fly zone may unnecessarily aggravate Libya into a war:

"The Libyan regime of Muammer Gaddafi must be stopped from killing its own people. No-fly zones are one option, but carry considerable risks. They imply a major attack on Libyan air defences, causing casualties. Colonel Gaddafi would depict this as an act of war, with highly uncertain political consequences. But even without removing the military option, there are non-violent measures that can and should be implemented now.
"As a British diplomat I worked on sanctions and no-fly zones in Iraq and Libya. Both episodes offer lessons about what works, and stress the crucial importance of avoiding harm to civilians. A push on non-violent measures, therefore, could make real progress in Libya, and set a positive precedent to assist those fighting dictatorship elsewhere."

The non-violent methods Mr Ross talks about are boycott, isolation and sabotage.

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