How Close are We to War with Libya: Will a No Fly Zone Result in Nation Building? (Updated)





Following the relatively peaceful uprisings resulting in regime change in Tunisia and Egypt, Libyans took to the streets in an effort to cause their dictator Gadhafi to step down from power.  Unfortunately, instead of bowing to the pressures of his people as did Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egyption President Hosni Mubarak, Gadhafi began firing on protesters.  Since that time armed oppostion has risen up to take over much of the country.  Although, based on photographs I’ve seen, these rebels are well armed, they do not have aircraft, putting them at a distinct disadvantage to Gadhafi and his air force.  There were initially several reports of heroic pilots how refused to fire on their countrymen, instead flying to Malta or downing their planes on purpose.  Since that time it has been clear that that was the exception to the rule, and that most of his air force was willing to fight a war against the opposition.

This has led several politicians to call for a no-fly zone to be established over Libya.  The thinking, presumably, is that by eliminating Gadhafi’s air force advantage, the opposition would be able to overtake him.  The US Senate has already passed a nonbinding resolution calling for the United Nations Security Council to consider imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.

“There is a bipartisan consensus building to provide assistance to liberated areas of Libya and to work with our allies to enforce a no-fly zone,” Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who authored the resolution said in a statement.

Larry, Moe and Curly, I mean, Senators McCain, Lieberman and Kerry have also spoken out for a no fly zone saying that it would be simple to accomplish and short lived.  (Sounds like what McCain said about Iraq in 2003).  Kerry said: “One could crater the airports and the runways and leave them incapable of using them for a period of time.”  He also said: “I think that if you were to have one, it’s not going to be like Iraq or Bosnia for the long term.”  Lieberman suggested setting up the no-fly zone would not be difficult, saying Libyan air bases are located “on one strip of land … along the north coast.”  McCain called Libya’s surface-to-air missiles “Soviet style,” seeming to suggest U.S. jets and munitions could easily destroy them.

So just bomb a few easily targetable runways, fly a few planes overhead for a few days while the opposition party takes control and like magic…democracy.  What could go wrong?  Maybe we should follow the war-hawk’s battle cry and “Listen to the Generals”, what do they have to say?

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a Pentagon news conference last week that a no-fly zone would be “an extraordinarily complex operation to set up.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in congressional testimony last week that suppressing Libyan air forces would require offensive military operations against Libya. “A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses.”

NATO envoy Ivo Daalder says a No-fly zone would not be enough for this kind of war:  “No-fly zones are more effective against fighters, but they really have a limited effect against … helicopters or the kind of ground operations that we’ve seen.  Which is why a no-fly zone, even if it were to be established, isn’t really going to impact what is happening there today.”

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead told Sen. Rodger Wicker (R-Miss.) a number of issues should first be sorted out before setting up a no-fly zone, including “that we would be entering into combat operations.”  Wicker interjected that Washington only would be “entering into air combat operations.”  When Roughead added that U.S. forces have done no-fly zones before and a “significant infrastructure” is required to “back them up,” Wicker replied: “Well, that’s available to us, right?”

Sure, that is available to us, again what could go wrong?  Well as Pat Buchanan points out what should be obvious, attacking Libya would be an act of war.

To establish a secure no-fly zone, we would have to bomb radar installations, anti-aircraft batteries, missile sites, and airfields, and destroy the Libyan air force on the ground, to keep the skies secure for U.S. pilots.  These would be acts of war against a nation that has not attacked us.  Never strike a king unless you kill him. If we declare a no-fly zone, we have to attack Libya. And if we attack Libya, an act of war, we have to see that the war is won.

That act of war has not (yet) been authorized by congress, would likely result in us occupying a third country and commit us to rebuilding yet another war torn middle eastern country.  Not only that, it would further prove to the Arab and Muslim people that we feel that we must control the events in their country, we must be in contol of who controls them.  Those who still believe they hate us for our freedom, haven’t really been paying attention to the mess we have made of their countries the last 40+ years.

Although Kerry and McCain say that ground intervention would be “very unproductive“, and “the last thing we want to think about“, that is clearly where it would lead.

So if a now fly zone would lead to troops on the ground, which no one wants, and another occupation, what are some alternatives?  Stephen Hadley, national security adviser to Bush 1 suggests a better alternative would be to “funnel arms to Libyan rebels, including anti-aircraft systems so that they can create their own no-fly zone rather than the United states having to do it.”  He added, the U.S. should use increased diplomacy and economic and military aid to the rebels to build some momentum for a toppling of the Gadhafi government”.

Problem with plan B, again they don’t want our interference.  In fact, we have already tried.  This weekend Britain thought it would be a good idea to arrive unannounced to offer their help.  A team from the Special Air Service (SAS) which are British special forces arrived on Libya’s shore on a landing craft and were escorting a “low level official”.  Quickly spotted, rebel troops closed in, and then the special forces reportedly said that they were unarmed and looking for a hotel.  It turns out the “low level official” was an MI6 agent and “They were carrying espionage equipment, reconnaissance equipment, multiple passports and weapons.”  A senior member of Benghazi’s revolutionary council said “this is no way to conduct yourself during an uprising.”  It turns out the MI6 agent was hand carring a note from the British Prime Minister offering to help, evidently they didn’t have his email.  The team held in a military prison for a few days until the rebels figured out whose side they were on, then sent them packing indicating they were not interested in outside intervention.

A common theme in our recent history has been America and the West arming and training those who we will be fighting in the next 10-20 years.  But why wait?  The same SAS British Special forces have been training Gadhafi’s special forces as recently as 2009! But considering the blunder they just experienced, being captured by the rebels, maybe we can hope that they trained Gadhafi’s troops to do the same.

As the price of gas rises, the drums of war beat louder.  We must remain alert to what our officials are committing us to, before we end up in yet another war that will cost the lives of our youth and drive our country ever closer to bankruptcy.

UPDATE#1:

Thanks to my friend and newly appointed Daily Iowan Editor-in-Chief Adam Sullivan for the following info.

Santorum, Pawlenty and Gingrich all in Iowa today speaking in support of a No-Fly zone.

Not sure if he will end up being a candidate for President, but Santorum certainly gets my nomination for bone-head statement of the day:

“Ronald Reagan bombed Libya, if you want to be Reagan-esque, it seems the path is pretty clear here.”-Santorum

“I think a no-fly zone would be a good thing for the United States to do.”- Pawlenty

“The United States doesn’t need anybody’s permission, the no-fly zone should begin immediately.” -Gingrich

UPDATE #2: UN Security Council Passes No Fly Zone, We Are At War.

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