Senators including John McCain and John Kerry are calling for a no-fly zone over Libya (an idea I endorsed two weeks ago), but the Obama administration has sent mixed signals, and Defense Secretary Gates is particularly cool to the idea. Conrad Black takes on the latter:
Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a congressional committee, “Let’s call a spade a spade: A no-fly zone means attacking Libya” (referring to the need to eliminate anti-aircraft batteries). So what? The United States cheerfully fires drone missiles into the territory of its glorious Pakistani ally (which supports elements of the Taliban we are fighting in Afghanistan) every day. Barack Obama, while his defense chief quails at taking out the anti-aircraft defenses of the murderous lunatic Gaddafi, unctuously repeats that the Libyan leader “has lost the legitimacy to lead and he must leave.” But such people don’t just leave, and certainly not because such ungalvanizing figures as Mr. Obama tell him to leave.
I cannot accept that the West has reached the point of enfeeblement that we sit like worried, helpless sheep while Iran arms itself with nuclear weapons, and are afraid to assist a clear majority in Libya get rid of a murderous fruitcake of a despot… If NATO (the U.S. Sixth Fleet in practice) can’t take out Libyan air defenses at no or minimal cost, we should all start studying Arabic and spending an hour a day with our foreheads pressed to the floor.
Libyan rebels themselves, including the Vice President of the provisional government that has arisen in the eastern half of the country, are calling for a no-fly zone, as Gaddafi’s air force — and, not incidentally, the ability to fly in mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa — is clearly key to his ability to maintain what for the moment looks like a stalemate. For those who doubt the US has an interest in a quick end to the Libyan civil war, Lee Smith makes a sobering point:
[W]e know what a civil war in the Middle East looks like. We know how these conflicts drag in their neighbors and destabilize bordering states. We know the humanitarian cost and the cost to American interests. We know what happens in the aftermath. American soldiers are in Afghanistan to prevent that country from becoming a failed state and terrorist haven. A civil war in Libya promises to create a dynamic potentially many times worse. Are we really going to forgo the opportunity to influence the outcome in America’s favor?
It seems we might do just that, especially given the Obama administration’s fetish for approval from the United Nations, which in practice promotes paralysis. The word from Turtle Bay is that UN diplomats would be open to a no-fly zone if attacks on civilians from the air (which have of course already happened) become so widespread that it constitutes a major humanitarian crisis. In other words, the strategy is to do something to prevent Gaddafi from commiting widespread crimes against humanity — but only once it’s too late.