Monday, March 07, 2011

Why A Libyan No-Fly Zone Is A No-Go

National security ace Thomas Ricks lists six no-nonsense reasons why a no-fly zone over Libya is a non starter:
(1.) Imposing a no-fly zone is an act of war. For example, it would require attacking Qaddafi's air defense systems-not just anti-aircraft guns and missile batteries, but also radar and communications systems. We may also need some places out in the desert to base helicopters to pick up downed fliers. So, first question: Do we want to go to war with Qaddafi?

(2.) Hmmm, another American war in an Arab state -- what's not to like?

(3.) How long are we willing to continue this state of war? What if we engage in an act of war, and he prevails against the rebels? Do we continue to fight him, escalate -- or just slink away? And what do we do about aircrews taken prisoner?

(4.) And if we are going to go to war with his government, why not just try to finish the job quickly and conduct air strikes against him and his infrastructure? In this sense, a no-fly zone is a half measure, which generally is a bad idea in war. Why risk going to war and losing? That is, if we are willing to do air strikes, why not go the whole way and use ground troops now to go in and topple a teetering regime? I actually would prefer this option.

(5.) See what I mean?

(6.) No, the Iraqi no-fly zones are not a good precedent to cite. . . . [O]ne reason that no American aircraft were shot down in the Iraqi no-fly zones was because Saddam Hussein really did not want to-that is, he did not want to provoke America.

Photograph by Robert Schmidt/AFP-Getty Images

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