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Could NATO enforce a no-fly zone over Libya?
The Obama administration is hesitant to involve U.S. forces in Libya. But what about NATO-led air patrols?
 
Anti-government protesters in East Libya: NATO military forces are considering a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Moammar Gadhafi from bombing rebels and civilians.
Anti-government protesters in East Libya: NATO military forces are considering a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Moammar Gadhafi from bombing rebels and civilians.
Corbis

Defense officials from the military alliance NATO are meeting Thursday to hash out a plan for dealing with Libya, and may establish a no-fly zone (see an explanation of the concept) to keep Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's air force from bombing rebels and civilians. The Obama administration has been cool to the idea, but pressure is mounting for the West to do something to help Libya's embattled rebels. Is a no-fly zone enforced by NATO the best option?

Washington should urge NATO to act: "Some NATO allies have expressed reluctance, but a strong push from Washington would in all likelihood bring them around" to enacting a no-fly zone, says Joshua Muravchik in World Affairs. And push we must. Doing nothing while "Libya's lightly-armed freedom fighters" are slaughtered by Gadhafi's superior force would be "the first great betrayal of the 21st century." And if NATO balks, the U.S. should go it alone.
"Libya: The next great betrayal?"

A no-fly zone is the wrong solution: Not only are NATO's European members wary of setting up a no-fly zone, says Ed Morrissey in Hot Air, but Obama's envoy to the alliance says "it wouldn't work even if imposed." Remember, Gadhafi is attacking civilians and rebels mostly with ground forces and helicopters, neither of which would be deterred by allied air patrols.
"US NATO envoy: A no-fly zone over Libya won't work"

What about a no-fly zone lite? "There is no insurmountable operational hurdle" to setting up a relatively limited no-fly zone, say James Thomas and Zachary Cooper in The Wall Street Journal. Libya's major bases and cities are within 10 miles of the coast, and allied fighter jets and long-range missiles could deny Gadhafi the use of his air force without even entering Libyan airspace. That doesn't seem so risky.
"No-fly zone, no problem"

Yeah, but we can't afford what comes next: A no-fly zone of any sort, with or without NATO, would be "a gateway drug that leads to all-out American military invasion and occupation," says Michael Lind in Salon. A no-fly zone isn't "a moderate, reasonable measure short of war, like a trade embargo," with maybe a few "antiseptic airstrikes." It's war, plain and simple. And after Iraq and Afghanistan, we just don't have "the men or the money" for a third war in the Muslim world.
"The neocons are trying to talk us into war — again"

 

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