Opinion Brief

Should a no-fly zone be imposed over Libya?

Some world leaders want to force Moammar Gadhafi's air force out of the sky — but will that solve problems or just lead to war?

As forces loyal to Libyan autocrat Moammar Gadhafi continue to rain violence on protesters in Tripoli, international leaders are scrambling to respond. On Saturday, the United Nations Security Council sanctioned Gadhafi and his family, and voted to refer him to a war-crimes tribunal. But some want to go a step further by imposing a no-fly zone — a complete ban on aircraft over the capital, or the entire country. Is this a good idea?

It's a good first step: Gadhfai would "slaughter hundreds or even thousands of his own people in his desperation to hang on to power," says The New York Times in an editorial. He and his henchmen must be told "in credible and very specific terms the price they will pay for any more killing," and that starts with sanctions, an arms embargo, and "imposing the kind of no-fly zone that the United States, Britain and France used to protect Kurds in Iraq from the savagery of Saddam Hussein."
"Stopping Gadhafi"

A no-fly zone probably wouldn't work: There's a reason no-fly zones are an "infrequently used tool," says Edward Rees at The Atlantic. Most intra-state conflicts are "ultimately conducted on the ground," and unless the situation is stable there, restricting air power is meaningless. A no-fly zone meant to stem bloodshed in the former Yugoslavia "did little to stop the worst abuses of that conflict." It's important to "consider the complicated history" of this method before endorsing it.
"The case against a no-fly zone in Libya"

And it might mean a full-fledged war: "This is a really, really bad idea," says Robert Dreyfuss at The Nation. A no-fly zone is useless in the first place, since "it isn’t clear that Libyan pilots are willing to bomb their own citizens." It's also a dangerous policy, because such a line-in-the-sand restriction is "worthless unless the United States is prepared to back it up with overwhelming military force." And unless Obama wants a third military conflict on his hands, "the United States needs to avoid anything that has warlike implications."
"Against a 'no fly zone' in Libya"

Recommended

10 things you need to know today: January 29, 2023
Protesters in Atlanta following the death of Tyre Nichols.
Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 29, 2023

10 things you need to know today: January 28, 2023
Former President Donald Trump.
Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 28, 2023

North Korea imposes 5-day lockdown on capital to fight 'respiratory illness'
North Koreans walk in Pyongchang.
sure ...

North Korea imposes 5-day lockdown on capital to fight 'respiratory illness'

Former U.S. generals explain how U.S. and German tanks can help Ukraine
Leopard 2 battle tanks
Many tanks

Former U.S. generals explain how U.S. and German tanks can help Ukraine

Most Popular

Body cam footage of Tyre Nichols' death released by police
A screenshot from the body cam footage of Tyre Nichols' beating.
Horrific

Body cam footage of Tyre Nichols' death released by police

Andrea Riseborough's Oscar nomination sparks Academy scrutiny
Andrea Riseborough
andrea fallborough?

Andrea Riseborough's Oscar nomination sparks Academy scrutiny

The big debate about alcohol
Alcohol.
In depth

The big debate about alcohol