Calls are growing for a no-fly zone over Libya, but a power or coalition of powers willing to enforce one remains elusive even as discussions are taking place within NATO.
The object of American foreign policy is to protect and advance American national interests. It is difficult to perceive the U.S. national interest in Libya. The interests of some European countries, such as Italy, are more substantial, but it is not clear that they are prepared to undertake the burden without the United States.
The justification for establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya seems to be that Libyan Dictator Moammar Qadhafi’s security forces are slaughtering demonstrators. While some of the estimates of deaths are probably inflated, it is clear that hundreds have indeed been killed. Mixed into the humanitarian justifications are frequent comments about the need to assert U.S. leadership, meaning to try to shape the outcome of the uprising and the political characteristics of a new, post-Qadhafi Libya.
Proponents of intervention seem troubled by the notion that yet another revolution in the Middle East might be a wholly domestic affair — without the benefit of guidance from U.S. political and policy elites.
The more important question is what exactly a no-fly zone would achieve. Certainly, it would ground Qadhafi’s air force, but it would not come close to ending the fighting nor erode Qadhafi’s other substantial advantages. His forces appear to be better organized and trained than his opponents, who are politically divided and far less organized. Not long ago, Qadhafi largely was written off, but he has more than held his own — and he has held his own through the employment of ground combat forces. What remains of his air force has been used for limited harassment, so the imposition of a no-fly zone would not change the military situation on the ground.
It has been pointed out that a no-fly zone is not an antiseptic act. In order to protect the aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone, one must begin by suppressing enemy air defenses. Dropping bombs and missiles on another nation is an act of war.
If we’ve learned anything in the past 20 years is should be that we cannot let U.S. foreign policy be driven by media coverage.
Proposals to intervene in Libya, especially to establish a U.S.-NATO no-fly zone, are misguided for multiple reasons.
First, as we saw in the Balkans and Iraq, no-fly zones tend to lead to deeper and more protracted involvement.
Second, there is considerable opposition throughout the Muslim world to Western meddling. At a recent Arab League meeting, there was a virtual consensus that outside — particularly U.S. — intervention in Libya would be a bad idea.
The foreign minister of Iraq, for example, firmly opposed such action, even though it was clear that his sympathies were with the Libyan insurgents.
The insurgents themselves are reportedly deeply divided about the desirability of aid. Some have called for it. But others emphatically reject it. Their numbers included a faction that displayed for television cameras a large banner proclaiming “No Intervention!”
A final, more subtle, reason that the Obama administration should resist these calls from both the left and the right is that, while such intervention might benefit the insurgents in the short term, it would undermine their legitimacy in the long run.
It would be difficult for factions that asked for and received U.S. military assistance to convince their fellow citizens that they’re not Washington’s puppets.
The main point of this posting is to emphasize that our foreign policy must always keep in mind, as its ultimate goal, the peace and security of the people of the United States. Force should not be called for against any nation because of any internal domestic policy. Like it or not, the turbulence taking place in Libya is an internal Libyan problem and not in the national interest of the United States.
The U.S. should not get involved in military action of any kind in the revolution in Libya. There should be no American participation in a no-fly zone in Libya. If there are already American Special Forces on the ground in Libya, they should be withdrawn immediately. Americans found involved would only serve to hurt our relations with the rest of the peoples of the Arab world.
If American military forces are called to fight in Libya, I will support their efforts just as I did in Afghanistan and Iraq. I hope I don’t have to.