Thursday, March 17, 2011


I'm conflicted about the prospect of a no fly zone over Libya. Leaving aside the hypocrisy of the U.S. pursuing such a policy while it tacitly supports Saudi Arabia's suppression of protesters in Bahrain---which is irrelevant as far as Libyans are concerned---what does it mean to take sides in a Civil War? A "no fly zone," after all, requires at least the destruction of air bases and anti-aircraft installations before it can commence. It's war.

But.. that said, it is immensely gratifying to see that this U.S. administration takes it for granted that any decision to enforce a no fly zone must be preceded by Chapter VII resolution from the UN Security Council and that key regional players, importantly the Arab League, not NATO, need to be on board first. This is an important step toward getting basic norms of multilateralism and obedience of international law back into the bloodstream of U.S. foreign policy.

1 comment:

jkd said...

I don't really take it for hypocrisy at all - the US has very specific interests in Bahrain and a long-standing alliance with their and the Saudi govt. Breaking those or applying substantial pressure on their actions (who knows if it'd be effective) would be a major shift in policy, with legitimate prospects for further destabilizing the region and US standing there. Now I think much of our policy in that part of the world is pretty dumb, but it'd be a huge shift to change it, especially now.

Libya, OTOH, is not of real strategic importance for the US, and our levers for action there aren't subtle. I agree entirely that it's a great step that there must be a Chapter VII resolution and that the Arab League needs to be on board before action is even considered. And I'm absolutely dumbfounded by the liberal-humanitarian hawks who are agitating for a no-fly zone, unilaterally if necessary. A no-fly zone is an invasion and an act of war - in order for anti-aircraft defenses to be properly targeted, there'd need to be, at a minimum, multiple deployments of special forces teams for scouting and spotting on the ground, redeployment of amphibious support ships as well as a carrier group, flyover and basing rights negotiated in neighboring countries... and then what if it doesn't work? Drop in the 101st Airborne, to fight alongside the Libyan rebels? To what purpose? And then when we "win"? The Taliban bugged out of Kabul pretty quick, and we're still in Afghanistan with no sign of leaving anytime soon, with 60k troops in Iraq despite the war being "over." Do people really not remember/know/think about this?